Cold temperatures have a profound effect on our bodies in the winter time, but it might surprise you to learn that not all of them are negative! Keep reading to learn some surprising ways that cold weather affects our health, and what you can do about it.
NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF COLD WEATHER ON THE BODY
Weakened Immune System
While going out in the cold doesn’t make you sick (the way your Grandma may have claimed), cold does have a suppressive effect on your immune system. Cold weather and respiratory disease, including flu, go hand in hand, explains the Harvard Medical School. “Some of this may have to do with a few infectious organisms, like flu viruses, thriving in colder temperatures, but there’s also evidence that exposure to cold temperatures suppresses the immune system, so the opportunities for infection increase.”
Breathing cold air in quickly through the mouth, such as when shoveling or playing outside, has been known to trigger lung spasms. Wearing a scarf or face mask can help, as can remembering to breathe through the nose to help warm air before it enters the lungs.
With falling temperatures comes falling barometric pressure, an atmospheric change that can be so intense, it leads to sinus issues and migraines.
Just because it makes you huddle under the blankets doesn’t mean cold weather is great for your sex life. Minimal sunlight (which reduces serotonin production), combined with the cold’s depressive effect on neurotransmitters, tends to put our libido into hibernation.
Now let’s take a look at some of the positive ways cold weather can affect your health!
POSITIVE HEALTH EFFECTS OF COLD WEATHER
Increased Fat Burn
It may not be enough to counteract all the holiday indulgences, but cold weather can help our body deal with fat more efficiently. In a 2012 study, researchers found that cold weather seemed to set “brown fat,” a type of fat found naturally in parts of the body that, when triggered, can burn off other “white” fat, into motion, and that simply being cold could cause significant calorie burn. The best way to maximize these effects is to get out and move around, even when the temperatures are chilly.
In a 2011 study, runners who were exposed to extremely cold temperatures recovered from exercise faster than those given other therapies or told to rest, The Atlantic reported. This means that getting out and exercising in the winter could result in less inflammation and soreness than summer exercise!
Better Brain Function
There’s some scientific evidence to suggest that our brains work better when we’re kept at cooler temperatures. One well-known 1972 study that said 62 degrees was the temperature at which school children functioned optimally, while other research shows that people study better when the weather outside is “bad.”