The Cold & Your Body: Are There Benefits?
Winter is upon us. And in most places, so is the cold weather.
But guess what? It’s not all bad.
As much as you might hate the frigid cold air, it has many surprising health benefits. Yet, this does not mean you shouldn’t bundle up out there. Proper winter attire is essential to protect yourself from frostbite and other not-so-great cold exposure effects.
However, next time you’re standing there shivering, you can at least relish in the fact that it could potentially be doing your body some good. Healthwise, the cold ain’t all bad!
Your Body Might Burn More Calories
You have 2 different types of stored fat - brown fat and white fat.
What’s the difference between these 2? White fat stores energy and makes up most body fat. Brown fat, on the other hand, is packed with mitochondria - which burns energy and produces heat.
So, how does this work exactly? When you’re cold, you shiver. It’s your body’s natural response to try to warm itself. Shivering stimulates the brown fat to burn calories and generate heat. It also causes your muscles to move and also generate heat. It keeps your body warm. And surprisingly, you can burn up to 100 calories shivering for 15 minutes.
Further, studies show that colder temperatures increase adiponectin levels. Adiponectin is a protein hormone. It’s responsible for regulating glucose and fatty acid breakdown. In other words, it plays a major role in fat burning. And lower levels of this hormone have been linked to obesity. Basically, increased levels of it mean increased fat burn.
What’s the bottom line here? Cold weather has the potential to help with fat loss via increased energy burning systems.
The Cold Air Increases Your Arousal
Huh? Okay, hear us out on this one.
Research states that comfort is not a prerequisite for performance. In other words, temperature changes don’t necessarily impact your performance. But arousal does. In a 2005 study, performance was found to correlate with arousal levels. And the cold increases arousal.
Other studies suggest that cognitive functioning improves in the winter months when compared to the summertime - meaning your next big idea might be right around the corner.
So, what does this mean? It means the cold might actually improve your cognitive functioning. It means if you’re hitting a mental block, taking a stroll out in the cold weather could really help. I mean it’s worth a shot - isn’t it?
The Cold Decreases Inflammation
Adiponectin also helps reduce inflammation. Since the cold stimulates increased levels of this hormone, you may also experience reduced inflammation.
Why is this important? Chronic inflammation can wreak havoc on your body. It can upset gut health, negatively impact your joints, and is linked to a higher risk of cancer and heart disease.
Say Goodbye to Your Allergies
The cold weather means next to no pollen in the air. For those of you that suffer from seasonal allergies, this could be great news. Yet, indoor allergies could potentially still be a problem for some (although, if you have indoor allergies, getting outside more could help!).
You Sleep Better
Sleep is important. Healthwise, there’s no denying it. And sleep deprivation can have serious negative health effects. Your cognitive performance significantly declines. Your body doesn’t function the same. Your mood plummets.
Yet, for most of us, the cold is a welcomed change. Unlike summer, you won’t find yourself tossing and turning because it’s too hot. Further, less daylight means you won’t be disrupted by the Sun shining through your windows in the early hours of the morning. You get a proper sleep and get the chance to sleep in!
You Experience Increased Immunity
With flu season, it might not feel like it. But the cold actually increases your natural killer cell count and white blood cell levels. These cells are important in preventing infection, illness, and disease. So, you are actually much better equipped to fight off all those germs that tend to circulate around during the winter.
It Improves Your Skin Health
As aforementioned, the cold weather reduces inflammation. This is great news for your skin as well. With the cold constricting blood vessels in the skin, you won’t have to worry about increased redness or inflammation. Decreased oil production also lowers your risk of a breakout.
However, it can also dry out your skin. Make sure to moisturize and follow dermatologists recommendations on how to properly take care of your skin.
But What About the Risks?
In some places, it gets cold - and we mean -30° Celsius cold. You want to exercise caution when the weather hits these extreme temperatures. Here are a few tips to make sure you stay safe this winter:
Other than that, get outside and enjoy winter! Go tobogganing with your family. Hit up the ski hill for the day. Go skating (or try skating for the first time!). Rent snowshoes and check out the local trails. Winter doesn’t mean you have to stay cooped up indoors for the next 6 months.
- Check the weather before you leave the house - then dress accordingly.
- Layer it up! It helps with insulation and keeps you warm.
- Avoid alcohol if you will be out in the cold. Alcohol dilates your blood vessels, which means you lose more heat - faster.
- Move when you’re outside. It will keep you warm.
- Limit the time you spend outside when it gets really cold.
- Cover your skin. This includes mitts on your hands and a cover for your face. Frostbite is not ideal.
- Keep paying attention to the weather. Snowstorms can sweep in unexpectedly and can have potentially dangerous consequences. Take the proper precautions!
Plus, there are benefits to getting a little chilled. Also, some of the best holidays happen throughout the winter. Enjoy the season while it lasts!