The weather is unbelievable lately – the coldest I remember it ever being with major snow storms as far south as Alabama! As a result, many people, understandably, are staying inside to avoid the below 0 temperatures. They’re not exercising outdoors, or driving to the gym, and their New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get in shape is beginning to fall by the wayside. If this sounds like you, here are some new research findings that may spur you into embracing the winter cold rather than shunning it.
Use The Cold Weather to Help You Reach This 1 Important Goal
In this cold winter weather, not only are people sitting more, they’re also sitting more in a very warm environment which, researchers say, may be sabotaging their weight loss efforts. That’s right – a too warm climate may be causing you to gain, or at least not lose, any of that excess weight you want to get rid of. People are keeping their thermostats turned up in their homes and work environments to stay warm and are unwittingly causing themselves to pack on the winter pounds as well.
During the winter, most of us are exposed to much warmer, indoor temperatures about 90% of the time. That means that your metabolism slows down too as it has to work less to keep you warm. The bottom line – you burn less fat when you’re spending 90% of your day in a warmer environment. Researchers at Maastricht Medical Center in the Netherlands propose, though, that we’d all be healthier – and slimmer – if we allowed indoor temperatures to vary with the outdoor temperatures.
In most public places, as well as with home heating, the study says, the temperatures get set at a point where most people are comfortable, which results in fairly high indoor temperatures, around 72 degrees. This lack of being exposed to variable temperatures – lower when its colder outside – can make whole populations more prone to obesity, the study found. Higher temperatures cause your brown fat – the type that helps you burn energy – to decrease.
On the contrary, the researchers study showed, participants who spent just 2 hours a day in 62 degree environments for 6 weeks had a significant decrease in body fat and an increase in their brown fat. They concluded, not to go to extremes, but allowing yourself to be exposed to mildly colder weather on a regular basis is actually good for your health. It increases your brown fat stores and up-regulates your metabolism to be more efficient at burning excess white fat, the kind that hangs around on your belly and thighs. In fact, without experiencing shivering cold, you could boost your fat burning capacity up to 30% more just by dialing down the thermostat in your home even a few degrees – say to 68.
Other studies out of Finland published in the New England Journal of Medicine have shown that outdoor workers had more brown fat than indoor workers. People in Scandinavian countries have been winter swimming for years and some studies have shown that this can actually help to diminish pain. In Japan, specialists use whole body “cryotherapy”, where patients sit for 1-3 minutes in significantly cooled rooms, at -166 degrees Fahrenheit, to treat conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory type conditions.
Now, I wouldn’t recommend anyone trying to spend more time outdoors in temperatures less than 20 – especially if you have upper respiratory conditions like asthma or COPD, or heart conditions that cold may aggravate. Yet, when the temperatures are mildly cold, say in the 25-35 ranges, getting outdoors on a sunny winter day, for even a 20 minute brisk walk, cross country skiing, or just shoveling your driveway can do 3 important things for you:
1. The cold air and exercise helps boost your metabolism. But because the cold stimulates your metabolism, it can also stimulate your appetite, so be sure to not overeat when you go back indoors.
2. It allows you to get some fresh air and oxygen into your lungs that also helps rev your metabolism.
3. It helps get rid of the winter blahs from spending long days in artificially lighted environments. Ever notice how much better you feel going outside on a sunny winter day than staying inside all day?
Who knows, in the future, weight loss specialists may be using cryotherapy as a weight loss method. But for now, comfortably lowering your thermostat a few degrees, moving around more during the day, and watching your food intake may help boost your weight loss efforts.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Exposure to Cold Temperatures Can Help Boost Weight Loss http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140122133824.htm
Out in the Cold, http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2010/January/out-in-the-cold