2008-07-09

Cold is good

Here in Newcastle we are shivering. It is currently 11.4°C (52.5°F) at 11.30am. This will probably be the coldest day of the year.

If you live in a place where the temperature gets colder, yes I know that I have no idea what cold is like. I have never lived in a place where it snows regularly (except on a three week holiday in Northern Scotland in January 1991).

People often say that we put on weight in winter. That may be true for some, but the reality is that we are more likely to lose weight in winter.

The reason is that our body temperature remains constant throughout the year. Whether it is in the middle of a frozen winter or a burning summer, our body remains at 36.8°C (98.2°F). This temperature can change, but the difference is only slight (±0.7°C / ±1.3°F). If our body temperature rises or drops below this rate for any extended period of time, our body tends to get a bit sick (hypothermia/heat exhaustion).

Therefore, in order for our body to maintain optimum temperature, our metabolic rate adjusts accordingly. The colder it is, the more our body increases our metabolic rate to remain warm. Conversely, the warmer it is, our metabolic rate decreases.

And, of course, any increase in the metabolic rate means that our fat reserves are more likely to be used.

Here in the western world, however, we have so many warm clothes and heaters and so much good food (carbohydrates can increase our metabolic rate) that winter doesn't affect us as much as it used to. Culturally, therefore, it is quite possible that winter does see us put more weight on simply because we like comfort foods when things are colder.


2 comments:

Ron Lankshear said...

Sydney very cold too and Dave takes off for Melbourne tomorrow .. brrrr.

I love Sydney climate - 1965 my last winter in London I had a fake sheepskin coat which I wore all the time. Went in back wardrobe when I came to Sydney and finally was thrown away.

Jan 1960 I was in Dufftown - some way west of Aberdeen. Arrived at Station and walked to pub - snow drifts blocked all roads out of town and I could just walk to distillery where I was learning how to look like an Excise man. Brrrr

Mrs. Beamer said...

I did have to laugh at the thought of you shivering when it is 52 degrees. In Seattle, that is when you start seeing people wearing shorts. When Mr. Beamer and I were in Disneyland in December (winter time for the US) a few years back, it was in the 70 degree range and all the Californians were wearing winter coats. The only ones at the swimming pool, were families from northern climates - it was summer weather for all of us.

Neil, you are correct about the body's metabolism rising as the temperature drops. I think the reason people in our Pacific Northwest climate tend to gain weight in the winter, is that the cold weather tends to make people want to stay indoors and they tend to do activities that are more sedentary.

Mr. Beamer and I tend to ignore the weather and go outside no matter the temperature. We have taken many walks in the snow and ice. The determining comfort factor seems to be more of what temperature your individual body is acclimated to rather than what the weather is.