Surprising Health Benefits of Cold Weather
By: John A. Billon, M.D.
Although cold weather is often associated with health problems such as cold and flu, you may be surprised to learn that the cold has some health benefits, too. Read on to learn how lower temperatures can be good for you.
Fewer allergies: Plants don’t make pollen in the winter, so we allergy sufferers generally feel better in cold weather.
Less bug-borne disease: Pesky insects like mosquitoes and ticks are in short supply in cold weather, greatly reducing our risk of catching the nasty diseases they may carry, such as West Nile virus, Lyme disease and Zika virus.
Reduced inflammation: Similar to putting ice on an injury, cold weather can reduce inflammation and pain. One study found that runners exposed to cold temperatures recovered faster from workouts. This suggests that exercising in winter may result in less inflammation and soreness than in the summer.
Improved brain function: There’s evidence suggesting our brains work better at cooler temperatures. One study found that 62 degrees was the best for schoolchildren to learn, and other research found that people study better when the weather is cold.
Increased fat burn: Besides your body using more calories to stay warm, research suggests being cold can increase your ability to burn fat. It may trigger “brown fat” in the body, a good fat that can burn off other “white” fat. Also, exercising in cold weather boosts your body’s energy expenditure for hours afterwards, so you end up burning more calories.
Better emotional health: We’re less likely to be out and about in cold weather, causing us to spend more time with family and friends. Social interactions like these have been shown to reduce stress, making us more relaxed and happier. Also, if you experience seasonal depression – known as the “winter blues” ─ your doctor may recommend a vitamin D supplement to boost your mood and keep your emotions on an even keel.
Dr. Billon received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical School, completed his residency program in Family Practice at Stamford St. Peters University Hospital and Robert Wood Johnson, and is certified by the American Board of Family Practice. He practices at MPCP’s Arnold office.