Many of us would love to live in Hawaii. The weather is a perfect 80 degrees all year round. It’s always a beach day, and the people who live there take time to enjoy the simple beauty that surrounds them. It’s no surprise Hawaii has the highest life expectancy in the nation; but the number two spot, according to a 2014 report by Measure of America, went to Minnesota.
Minnesota, a state where temperatures regularly drop into the single digits and it could easily snow from November until April. It begs the question, is cold weather good for your health? Here are several surprising benefits.
Cold weather burns calories
Many people associate winter with a time to pack on a few pounds to stay warm, eat comfort food and indulge during the holidays. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Cold weather itself actually helps people maintain or lose weight. According to a 2010 Harvard Health Letter, the cold activates what is called “brown fat” in the body, or the heat-producing, calorie-burning fat. When you’re out in the cold, you are burning fat more efficiently. Cold weather also improves your metabolism to speed up the rate at which you burn calories.
Cold weather could lead to a longer life
The next time the temperature drops to the freezing mark, think about this. Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute found the lifespan of mice increased by up to 20 percent after core body temperature was reduced. Another study found mussels off the coast of Spain live for about 29 years, while mussels off the coast of Russia live for up to two centuries. If mice and mussels do well in the cold, we must too.
Cold weather helps your workout
If you want to run faster, head to colder climates! When exercising in freezing temperatures, the body will acclimate and start using oxygen more efficiently. Men’s Health says regular exercise in the cold could improve running speeds by up to 29 percent. Exercise is also a way to beat the winter blues. Get moving to reduce stress and increase production of happy hormones, known as endorphins.
Cold weather eases the pain
Just think of cold weather like a giant ice pack. Putting ice on an injury reduces inflammation and suppresses pain, and some experts believe a drop in body temperature has the same medical benefit. In a 2011 study reported by The Atlantic, runners who were exposed to temperatures as low as -166 degrees recovered from their workouts faster than athletes given other therapies, or told to just rest.
Treatments like cryotherapy, which rely on extreme cold to reduce pain, are popular around the world. Finland is one country that is a firm believer in the power of cryotherapy.
Cold weather makes us better workers
Our brains work better in cooler temperatures. A 1972 study from The International Journal of Biometeorology found 62 degrees is the optimal temperature for school children to get their work done in the classroom. The cooler temperature helps people, young and old, stay alert and productive. But, in contrast, the study found that a room cooler than 62 degrees could be a distraction.
Cold weather brings us closer together
Winter is one of the most sociable times of the year. With the holidays and sports games, friends and family get together often. But that’s not all. Friends are more likely to make longer phone calls when it’s cold outside. Researchers at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom studied the call patterns of 1.3 million cell phone users. They found the call length increased during “uncomfortable weather,” which includes cold weather and very hot weather.
Cold weather gets us thinking about vacations
Don’t underestimate the health benefits of taking a tropical vacation during the winter! A 2013 study found that travel can be the best medicine. Women who vacationed twice a year had a significantly lower risk of having a heart attack compared to women who vacationed about every six years. Men who didn’t take an annual vacation had a 20 percent higher risk of death. Additionally, trips abroad tend to foster new perspectives and experiences, which can also help relieve stress and improve outlook on life.
So if you want to live longer, lose weight, and be more productive at your job, think about living in a colder climate. Or… maybe just planning a trip to the mountains will do.