There is no denying that weather has an impact on our well-being. Cold weather often gets a bad rap, shouldering the blame for anything from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) to the common cold. Despite its chilly reception, cold weather actually has some surprising benefits to our health, especially if we know how to maximize these benefits. Read on to discover how lower temperatures can have positive effects and how to stay safe in extreme cold.
5 Benefits of Cold Weather
Most of these cold-weather benefits still depend on a temperature sweet spot. During colder months, the outdoor temperature’s impact on our indoor climate settings, as well as brief and safe exposures to the cold, go a long way to bringing these benefits to life.
- Better Sleep
Many of these positive effects of cold weather stem in part from one of our most important processes: sleep. Studies agree that sleeping in a bedroom between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit helps us fall asleep faster and maintain restful sleep. This indoor climate range is often easier and more cost-effective to maintain in cooler months than in the heat of summer.
- Immune Boost
While it might seem to contradict the increased spread of common viruses, studies show that cold weather can trigger our immune systems to battle these very viruses more effectively. Beyond the ability to fight infections, mosquito-borne illnesses are also not a concern when temperatures are too low for insects to reproduce. Also, pollen counts are low in the winter, helping to eliminate some allergy culprits, aside from mold, dander, and dust.
- Less Stress
Cortisol has been found to be lower in our bodies during the colder months, which can lead to lower stress levels and less irritability. Additionally, when we safely exercise in the cold, we experience an increased release of endorphins over working out in warm weather that can lead to exhaustion and dehydration.
- A Cold Head, Not a Head Cold
While prolonged exposure to extreme cold can be hazardous to the skin, consistent and safe exposure to cooler temperatures can benefit it. Like a cold shower, lower temperatures can stimulate blood flow and give your face a bright, healthy look. Beyond beauty, studies show that the cold can also boost our thinking. A cooler indoor climate helps us think clearly, and colder temperatures can help motivate complex cognitive tasks.
- A Kick-Started Heart and Metabolism
When you exercise in the cold, your heart must work harder to maintain your body temperature. With proper training, this can strengthen your heart. In addition to heart health, colder climates have been linked to increased brown fat. While most adults have white fat, brown fat is more energy-dense and corresponds to increased metabolism.
How To Maximize the Benefits of Cold Weather
Most of these benefits rely on either a temperature sweet spot or proper cold-weather planning. In order to stay safe and take advantage of the cold, it’s important to consider other aspects of the weather.
For example, maintaining optimal house humidity in the winter goes a long way to ensure that the cooler indoor climate has a positive impact. Placing a temperature and humidity sensor in each bedroom can help you optimize and improve your family's sleep conditions, stress, and mood.
You should also try to work up to increased cold exposure by taking short walks outside to let your body naturally acclimate to the changing weather. And finally, find the sun! Monitor the hours of daylight and UV exposure in real-time with the AcuRite Atlas® to be sure you're getting enough natural vitamin D. While the cold is not explicitly responsible for SAD, lower temperatures often correspond with less sun exposure, so it is important to pair the benefits of cold weather with the benefits of sunshine.
Tips for Staying Safe in the Cold
While this article focuses on the benefits of cold weather, we cannot ignore the potential dangers of winter. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the cold:
Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst
Take some time to prepare your home, vehicle, and yourself this winter. Keep an eye on your home weather station, set up a car emergency kit, and make sure you wear the appropriate apparel before heading out. It sounds simple, but a little preparation goes a long way.
Know Your Limits
If you have heart disease, sensitive skin, or other health conditions, make sure you limit your exposure to the cold. While there are numerous health benefits to the cold, vulnerable people must take extra care when the temperatures drop.
When in Doubt, Go Warm Up
Cold weather can bring on hypothermia and frostbite. Our bodies are not made for long periods of cold exposure without proper protection. If you notice symptoms like shivering, exhaustion, or confusion, go inside and warm up immediately. Both hypothermia and frostbite can cause long-term damage, so avoid them altogether with short and safe cold-weather exposure.
Bear the Cold
While cold weather can be dangerous, there are numerous surprising health benefits during the cooler months. With proper planning, anyone can experience the positive effects of the cold this winter. Check the real-time weather updates with your own home weather station, reporting right from your backyard!