Why Getting Out in the Cold is Good for You
It’s cold. And, regardless of what Punxsutawney Phil says, cold temperatures will stick around for at least 6 more weeks. Most of us hate cold weather. We hate it so much that we go to great expense to avoid it. We keep our houses at 72 degrees, we run our showers until the water is “warm enough,” and we park our cars in the garage so we don’t have to go outside. And, if our cars are outside, we just push a button and warm them up before we get in. Then there are those of us who hate the cold so much, we fly south for the winter.
But most of us don’t realize that cold weather is actually good for you. Your body functions better when you expose it to cooler temperatures. Here are a few reasons you need to get out and enjoy cold weather, and maybe even make your home a little cooler.
1. You Will Feel Better. Cryotherapy utilizes extremely low temperatures as a form of medical therapy and has been used for centuries to treat various medical conditions such as pain and inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia. Typically, cryotherapy involves exposure to extremely cold temperatures (-200 to -300 degrees Fahrenheit) for two to four minutes. Cryotherapy can also be as simple as using ice packs or ice baths. Cold exposure can temporarily relieve joint paint because it halts blood flow to inflamed areas.
2. You Burn More Calories When You Are Cold. Any time you are cooler, your body will burn calories to warm you up—remember a calorie is a unit of heat energy. A 2017 study of 53 men and women participating in the National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming found that hiking in temperatures ranging from 15 to 23 degrees burned 34 percent more calories than hiking in temperatures in the mid-50s.
Don’t let the cool weather stop you from getting outside for a walk. Make sure you have good gloves and don’t dress as warm as you think you need to. Start your walk cool and let your body do the work to warm you up.
The same concept works in your home. Keep your house cooler (61 – 65 degrees) in the winter and you will burn more calories throughout the day. At night, turn the thermostat down and sleep with fewer blankets.
3. Your Brain Works Better. Research shows that people perform tasks better when the room temperature is set at a cooler setting. Research also shows that you are more likely to tackle cognitive problems in the winter than in the summer. The key to improved cognitive performance from the cold is being cool, but not uncomfortable. If you need to solve a complex problem at work, get outside for a cool walk after lunch.
4. You Will Be Healthier. Your health requires fresh air. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air in your house contains more pollutants than the air outside, especially in the winter. They actually recommend opening a window for at least five minutes a day to decrease the concentration of indoor pollutants. That’s a great idea, but what if you just got outside for some fresh air?
If you suffer from allergies, winter is the time to get outside—the pollen count is zero. And the highest mold and dust mite counts occur in your house in the winter.
Then there’s Seasonal Affective Disorder, which affects just about everyone this time of year. You don’t get depressed in the winter because of the temperatures; it’s because you don’t get enough vitamin D from the sun—which is always better than getting vitamin D from a supplement. Vitamin D maintains the balance in your neurochemical levels in important mood hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Drops in these chemicals can cause depression and anxiety.
Go for a winter walk without a hat to get more vitamin D from the sun. Even the amount of sunshine you get on your face and head in a 30-minute walk will make a huge difference in the way you feel.
5. It Will Improve Your Immune System. You don’t get more colds in the winter because of the colder temperatures. More people get sick in the winter because viruses spread more easily in the dry air, and we spend more time indoors in close contact with others.
Exposure to moderately cold temperatures will actually improve your immune system. You can see even greater improvements if your skin gets enough sun exposure to improve your vitamin D status.
6. It Will Increase Your Brown Fat. Brown fat is metabolically active fat that burns energy to produce heat. Until recently we only thought these fat cells existed in infants. We now understand a certain number of these cells stay with us through adulthood.
A 2014 study by the National Institutes of Health found that sleeping in at room at 66 degrees for a month increased brown fat by 42% and fat metabolism by 10%. But even more importantly, it also improved insulin sensitivity after a meal. And if that wasn’t enough, the study participants experienced significant improvements in hormone levels as well.
So instead of spending the next six weeks hibernating, get outside and enjoy some fresh air, sunshine, and cool temperatures.
When you go outside, dress appropriately. Make sure your hands and feet are warm. Go without a hat to get some sun. Wear layers to keep yourself warm enough. And shed a layer if you get too hot.
Most people can safely handle being in temperatures as cool as 5 degrees for up to three hours at a time. But getting out for 15 to 30 minutes every day will give you some great health benefits.
At Exercise Inc we believe in the importance of cool temperatures so much that we always keep our studios cooled to 61 to 65 degrees. This allows you to get the best workout possible. It allows your coach to think better and stay sharper.
Stay Strong and Cool!