The New Year is upon us and winter is officially here! Whether you like the cold or not, there’s a point for everyone when it’s just too darn cold to do anything outside. While we probably feel our best during the summer months, getting out in the cold can have health benefits too. In this article I will talk about a few surprising ways cold weather is actually good for your body, in moderation. In fact, one of the reasons why people get sick is not because it’s cold, but rather because people spend too much time indoors. When it’s cold out, it’s important to fight your sense of comfort, wanting to stay inside, and instead, get outdoors! Here are a few ways that cold weather improves our health:
1. Getting outside in the cold helps to burn more calories. Just a brisk walk outside in the cold burns almost twice the calories as the same walk in the summer. Your body works a bit harder to keep it warm, and that extra energy means extra fat is being burned. Who can say no to that?!
2. Cold weather can boost brain activity. A 2017 Stanford Study found that people performed some cognitive tasks with more control as the temperature dropped. The science behind this points to the brain’s use of glucose for cognitive function – and in the summer more glucose is being used to keep our bodies cool, rather than for cognitive functions. So truthfully, winter time is the best time to tackle more complex projects. Or even a brisk walk outside before a big meeting or presentation can help improve brain function and focus!
3. Surprisingly, repeated exposure to mild cold weather can help people with diabetes! Such exposure increases insulin sensitivity, even in those who don’t have diabetes. Research shows that pregnant women who are exposed to mild cold weather can actually prevent gestational diabetes. This is great news! Even more reason to take that daily winter walk.
4. We get much better sleep when It’s cold. It has already been shown that turning down the thermostat at night directly correlates with improved quality of sleep. Your body’s core temperature naturally drops when you sleep, so in colder weather the body doesn’t have to work as hard to lower the body temperature.
5. If you have a healthy heart, cold weather can be used to strengthen the heart! We use cardio and conditioning to strengthen the heart through exercise, but in cold weather the heart naturally will increase it’s work load. Just standing outside in the cold, your heart is working a bit harder to pump blood to maintain body temperature. While many of us have a taboo against making the heart work harder, we must realize that the heart is a muscle and the way to keep our muscles healthy and strong is by repeatedly strengthening them. Not just standing out in the cold, but taking your exercise routine outside is a great way to strengthen the heart as well.
6. Cold weather improves circulation which also alleviates inflammation. Those of us who struggle with swollen ankles, or inflammation from arthritis or other conditions, cold weather exposure is a great way to utilize nature’s ice pack.
7. Cold weather is fantastic for the skin! Especially those with oily-type skin. Cooler air acts as an astringent, minimizing pores and decreasing the production of sebum, which in turn reduces acne. It also improves circulation, tightening up the skin and adding natural rosy colors to the cheeks.
8. Outdoor air quality is much better in the winter for most places. Winter time is the best time to be outdoors and practice your deep breathing exercises, because you’re getting the freshest and cleanest air. We spend too much of our time indoors, where some of the poorest air quality can be found, and we truly put our bodies at a disadvantage. Cooler, cleaner air rejuvenates the body, so fully inhale that brisk air!
As you can see, there are so many benefits to being out in cooler air. It takes a conscious effort to make time for a little outdoor walk each day. If you have a healthy heart, there’s no reason why getting out in cold air shouldn’t be a part of your daily lifestyle. While the dangers of extreme cold are real, and the threshold of cold tolerances vary greatly among us, it’s safe to say that winter isn’t the enemy. We can use this cold air to our benefit! Liven up your life, feel alive in that brisk air and shine as bright as the sun shining upon the snow.