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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.

5 Ways to Improve Your Health Now

The secret to good health is really no secret. In most cases, health is the result of lifestyle choices we make, the things we do or don’t do. In other words, good health is in your hands.

Many serious diseases are largely preventable, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and several forms of cancer. A recent study found that adults who followed four tenets of good health ─ they controlled their weight, exercised, ate a healthy diet and didn’t smoke ─ were 80% less likely to develop chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Whether you’re in pretty good shape or already have health concerns, you can make lifestyle changes to prevent disease and even reverse its effects. Here are five things you can do to take charge of your health.

  1. Get More Exercise
    Exercise is key for preventing illness and maintaining good health. And you don’t have to join the gym. Something as simple as taking a brisk walk 30 minutes a day can dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and several cancers. Also, the feel-good hormones (endorphins) your body produces during exercise are a great way to de-stress and give your mood a boost. The Mayo Clinic recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week.
  2. Lose Weight 
    Studies show that losing just a few pounds if you’re overweight will improve your health. Key to weight loss is a healthy diet that includes abundant fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limits refined sugars and unsaturated fats. You should also replace sugary beverages with water; they have a ton of calories.
  3. Get Your Shots and Screenings
    Keeping up to date on vaccinations – including your annual flu shot ─ can prevent many dangerous illnesses. Routine health screenings are also a lifesaver. Knowing and managing your cholesterol and blood pressure is crucial to reducing your risk of heart disease, and cancer screening tests can catch some cancers early when they are highly treatable.
  4. Don’t Smoke
    You’d think we wouldn’t have to say it anymore, but lung cancer caused by smoking remains the leading cause of cancer death and is also a big factor in heart disease. But thanks to a variety of new nicotine replacement therapies and medications, quitting is easier than ever.
  5. Enjoy Family and Friends
    Good social connections not only give you pleasure, they also influence your long-term health. Studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. So feel better by hanging out with the people you like most.

Your doctor can provide valuable advice and support as you make important lifestyle changes. But remember, the choice to be healthier starts with you.

Dr. John A. Billon sees patients in MPCP’s Arnold office. He received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical School and completed his residency program in Family Practice at Stamford St. Peters University Hospital and Robert Wood Johnson. He is certified by the American Board of Family Practice.