Do Cold Temps Affect Heart Rate While Exercising & Running?

Doctors know there are more heart attacks in winter than summer months. The direct causes of these heart attacks are less clear. A 2012 study of the American Heart Association showed that heart attacks increase during the winter in both cold and warm climates. The study found that heart attack-related deaths increased by about 36 percent even in disparate climates in the U.S.

Cold Weather and Heart Rate

Cold weather raises heart rate. Colder temperatures require the heart to work extra hard to keep blood in circulation in running and other cardiovascular exercise. The extra effort causes an upsurge in both heart rate and blood pressure. The spike in heart rate can be especially high for seniors.

Other Factors

Do Cold Temps Affect Heart Rate While Exercising & Running?

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Winter heart attack rates may rise partly because of increased heart rates in cold weather, but doctors have not isolated it as the sole cause. Several cold weather-related factors may also play a role. Winter spikes in flu, bronchitis, pneumonia and depression may cause additional strains on the body that can lead to heart attack. Also, junk food consumption and lack of exercise routine during holiday months may lead to declines in overall health.


Many conditions could increase the risk of heart attack when coupled with cold weather exercise. Some of these include chronic heart disease, chronic hypertension and asthma. Men over 45 and women over 55 are at increased risk of heart attack, as are people with a family history of heart attacks. People who fall into any of these categories should consult a physician before exercising in cold weather.

Safety Tips

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If you decide to forgo indoor workouts and runs to brave the cold, you can take several precautions to stay safe. Wear gloves, warm socks, scarf, jogging cap and layered clothing to keep your body from getting too cold. Wear breathable cotton clothing that will soak up moisture to avoid hypothermia. Always warm up before you begin exercising. Take extra care to protect extremities in temperatures below -17 degrees F.