The dead of winter is one of the most common times of the year for cardiovascular problems; holiday-time lack of exercise and weight gain is only partially to blame. “Inhaling very cold air through your mouth chills your coronary arteries, which then constrict,” says New York University cardiologist Howard Weintraub. “This can dangerously reduce the volume of blood being pumped to your heart.” So wrap a scarf around your mouth to warm the air. Overexercising can aggravate the effects of the cold, particularly for those who are out of shape. Unless you stuck to your workout program over the holidays, it is best to ease back into exercise. Other points that author Melissa Gotthardt makes: A Texas Heart Institute study found that heart attacks spiked when influenza rates peaked. She says this is due to viral infection causing inflammation, which can disturb arterial plaque and cause clots to form. (So get a flu shot.) Another study found that people with the lowest level of Vitamin D were, for unknown reasons, at greater risk than others of having a heart attack. Because our bodies produce less Vitamin D in the winter, the article suggests taking a supplement.
I’m too tired, I’m too busy, I’m too far away from my goal. Who hasn’t made these excuses for not exercising? In “Improve Your Sweatitude,” Liz Neporent suggests nine strategies for getting out of your fitness rut, with some science to back up the suggestions. To start with, Neoporent suggests breaking up your workout with bursts of speed. She refers to a study that found that “exercisers who did 50-minute runs rated their enjoyments as much higher when they mixed in six 3-minute intervals.” Another study suggests that exercising at an easy pace just three days a week boosts energy levels. If being short on time is your excuse, Wayne Westcott, formerly director of fitness research programs at Quincy College in Massachusetts, points out that just a little bit can help: “Most people think they need to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes, which can seem daunting, but you can actually get a better workout in just 20 minutes” by alternating two minutes of moderate-intensity cardio with two minutes of high-intensity intervals. And if all else fails, think about all the time you’ve wasted making excuses, and imagine how much better you’d feel if you’d put that time into a brisk walk.