ROCHESTER — When I interviewed Dr. Michael Kennedy about cold exposure and lung health, it was minus 27 degrees Fahrenheit outside of his office window in Alberta, Canada. This guy knows about cold.
Kennedy, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation at the University of Alberta, is a trained exercise physiologist and cross country skier. And for many years, he traveled with athletes as a ski race technician. He’s seen what exercising in extreme cold can do to athletes’ lungs.
“I don’t want to scare people,” Kennedy said. “But a large number of ex-cross-country ski racers, especially females, have raced in some sort of cold weather race where that specific event has changed their lung health for ever.”
How cold is too cold? Kennedy’s research shows that 5 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 15 Celsius) may be the threshold. And this applies to anyone of any age who is spending active time outside.
Listen or watch this episode to hear Kennedy explain how cold may hurt your lungs, symptoms to look for and what you can do to prevent cold-related lung injury. Sometimes, it’s as simple as staying inside until it warms up.