Did you know you can develop incredible tolerance to exercising in the cold, and it might be a good idea? Check out this woman’s remarkable abilities to withstand cold temperatures in her determination to befriend beluga whales.
If just watching her makes you want to reach for that thermostat, consider this recent report on a long-standing inquiry into the effects of cold ambiet temperature on body weight. Marken Lichtenbelt and his colleagues have been studying the effects of mild cold on health for over a decade, originally focused on extreme and adverse conditions. Along the way, they began to notice body composition differences depending on mild cold exposure, in their own work and in the studies of others.
People accommodate to cooler indoor temperatures (59 to 62.6 degrees F was often used) by developing more brown fat, which generates heat without shivering. Brown fat responds to cold by expending more calories to generate heat without subjecting you to the discomfort of shivering.
Cold thermogenesis advocate, Dr. Jack Kruse (link) suggests that exercising in cold temperatures (even quite cold), while keeping head, hands and feet warm, can improve health and body composition. According to Kruse, our body can accommodate and, according to these researchers, even changes the color and function of fat tissue in ways conducive to fat volume loss.
The authors of the study suggest that we might all do better (and our waistlines stay more healthy) if we let our indoor temperatures vary somewhat with outside temperatures, learning to tolerate coolder rooms. This reminds me of an analagous piece of advice I give to patients who are sleep challenged, suggesting they let indoor lighting more closely follow outdoor light patterns, particularly in the evening. Living indoors a litte more in parallel with the light and temperature in the outside world just might be the boost you need to normalize your own sleep patterns and weight.