5 Surprising Health Benefits of Cold Weather

The first arctic blast is making its way to Oklahoma tonight, which has many people taking about the weather and what to expect. Though we have been enjoying beautiful Fall weather with highs in the 60s and 70s over the weekend, Tuesday morning lows in the 30s followed by lows in the 20s Wednesday, remind us of Will Roger’s famous quote, “If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute and it’ll change.” A dip below freezing temperatures has its benefits when it comes to your health. Here are a few reasons you may be more welcoming to the cooler temperatures:

Bye Bye Bugs

Since early Spring, we have been sharing the great outdoors with our warm weather friends – mosquitos, ticks and bees, to name a few. More than just a nuisance to picnics and barbeques, bugs can carry illness from human to human like West Nile Virus. As soon as temperatures dip below freezing, we are less likely to be affected by disease causing mosquitos, with the height of exposure from July to October in Oklahoma.

Reduce Inflammation

Much like a bag of ice on an injury helps prevent swelling, exposure to cold temperatures helps our body fight inflammation in our joints.  For runners, one study found cold therapy versus heat therapy was more effective in reducing pain and speeding up recovery time. However, people with arthritis may notice more joint pain during the winter months, which may be attributed more to lower barometric pressure and less with the actual temperature. It is important to remember to stay active during cold weather months to help lubricate joints and reduce pain.

Less Pain

In addition to helping fight inflammation, exposure to cold temperatures can actually help you feel less pain. One study looked at the effects of “polar plunges” on our bodies with respect to pain and found the presence of norepinephrine, a naturally occurring chemical in the body that helps suppress pain, increases three-fold.

Wake up Fat

Though we don’t often association colder months with losing body fat, it turns out cold temperatures help wake up a particular type of fat in our bodies called brown fat. Brown fat helps our bodies produce heat, while also burning calories more efficiently than white fat. Babies rely on brown fat to help them stay warm, and even though we lose most of it as we age, it is helpful to know some brown fat is still there every winter!

Live Longer

For those who merely endure a few months of cold weather to get back to warmer days, they may not realize the impact it is having on their longevity. Studies looking at worms, mice and muscles found exposure to cold temperatures can result in longer lives. For mice, lifespan increased by up to 20 percent when the core body temperature was reduced.