7 Health Benefits Of Cold Weather, Because This Can't Be As Awful As It Feels
We knew winter was coming, but we weren't expecting this. Between the polar vortex, the cancelled flights, the power outages and the thousands of drivers trapped on frozen Atlanta highways, the winter of 2013-4 has been an epic of awfulness. Or... has it?
Maybe we weren't looking on the bright side. Maybe we've spent the season so drenched in our doom and gloom (along with, you know, the slush) that we forgot to remember that winter can be good for us. Don't believe us? Here's seven health benefits you might be getting from the chilly weather...
Cold Could Make You Live Longer
What’s a little cold compared to a longer lifespan? Researchers have found that exposure to cold climates triggers a genetic response in worms, mice, and mussels that extends the lifespan of the animal.
And, OK, you’re not a mussel. But still: “It’s possible our research applies to humans, because the genetic pathway we identified is found in people,” said Shawn Xu, who authored a paper on the subject in the journal Cell.
Insects Can't Infect You (As Much)
Yes, summer is lovely and all, but think about the ticks. The mosquitos. The flies. In winter, all of these infection-carrying pests aren’t biting at your exposed flesh, and so it’s far harder for insect-carrying infections to spread.
You’re stuck indoors, sure, but you’re not stuck indoors with, say, the West Nile virus. Or Lyme disease. So that’s good, right?
Cold Can Reduce Inflammation
Believe it or not, lots of spas and athletic facilities offer cold-room treatments. We’re not suggesting your long, hard winter is akin to a spa treatment, but there’s evidence to suggest that exposure to the cold reduces inflammation in the body.
For example, after athletes finish working out, cold-room treatments — known as “cryotherapy,” at which temperatures can go as low as -166 F — have been shown to be better for their body’s recovery than simply resting.
You Run Faster In The Winter
There are a few benefits to winter jogging. Firstly, if you’re looking to burn calories, your body will spend extra energy trying to keep itself warm, and so it’ll burn off more calories than summer jogging.
Secondly, it looks like marathon runners are actually faster in colder temperatures. A U.S. Army analysis of marathon times when compared with temperature showed that runners’ finish times dropped, meaning athletes got faster when temperatures dipped. Winter chills also boosted athletes’ endurance.
Cold Temperatures Will Wake You Up In The Morning
It’s never harder to get out of bed than it is the middle of winter, when it’s freezing and pitch-dark. But abrupt changes in temperature, like walking out of your warm apartment and into the chill, will get your circulation going. This helps you feel more awake.
If you’re feeling particularly brave, turn your morning shower from hot to cold to hot again. This’ll boost your circulation and get you ready for the day, though it’s going to feel appalling and there’s nothing we can say to help you there.
Cold Weather Can Limit Your Pain
Granted, this one only works if you’re in pain — say, from falling over on the ice. A recent Danish study examined women after they plunged into cold pools and endured cyrotherapy (cold-room) treatments.
After the exposure to cold temperatures, the women’s bodies produced three times the normal amount of norepinephrine, a chemical that reduces pain.
Shivering Is A Bit Like Exercise
It’s near-impossible to drag yourself outside in winter, let alone to the gym. So this is good news: Shivering kinda-sorta counts as exercise. A study published Tuesday in the journal Cell Metabolism found that shivering triggers a muscle response similar to exercise.
When it’s warmer out, we’ll consider making a return to the gym. Until then, we’ll shiver ourself fit! Right?