It is that time of the year again. The days are getting shorter and colder. Fall is here and winter will follow shortly. Unfortunately, we are typically most comfortable when the temperature hovers between 24-27C but sadly, those pleasant temperatures will not return again for several months. Of course nobody likes to be cold but sometimes there simply is not a choice, it’s the reality of the climate we live in. In this blog post, I will talk to you about ways you can acclimatize your body and mind to the cold.
Most of us have friends or know people who are much more or much less able to tolerate the cold or warmth. This is because how cold we feel is largely based on our perception of how cold it is. This means that we can get used to the cold and not feel uncomfortable when we are outside in the winter.
We have three primary ways of adjusting to cold temperatures: habituation, metabolic adjustment, and insulation. This means that we can either get used to the cold, produce more internal heat or conserve heat by gaining weight.
Here are some tricks you can use to acclimatize yourself to wintertime:
1) Get used to the cold
The biggest difference in our ability to withstand colder or warmer temperatures has to do with how we perceive those temperatures. This means that if you want to get used to the cold you will have to go out in it. Unfortunately, this process can be quite uncomfortable initially but well worth it if you want to enjoy spending time outside this winter. Here are some ways to get used to the cold:
Go outside and enjoy yourself
Try to find winter activities you can enjoy. You will be warmer if you are active while outside. Ideally you should spend at least two hours a day outdoors. Start with shorter durations and progressively spend more time outside. Wear enough clothes to stay warm but avoid overdressing. Remember, the idea is to get used to the cold.
Use colder water when you shower
Research has showed that regularly diving in cold water can increase basal metabolic rate by up to 30%. This means that the body is using more energy at rest which helps them stay warm in the cold water. Taking cold showers is a good way to emulate this and will help acclimate to colder temperatures. Try alternating cold and warm showers or finish your shower with cold water.
Turn down the thermostat
This is another way of adjusting to the cold. Turn down the heat inside by a few degrees at a time until you can tolerate colder temperatures. Of course, this will also help you save some money on utilities.
Avoid covering up
This is another way of experiencing the cold and adapting to it. If you are already taking cold showers, this step should be a breeze.
Drink ice water
2) Increase your activity level
You can always overcome the cold by increasing the amount of heat your body generates on its own. Exercise also allows you to maintain a healthy metabolism which helps to improve the ability to withstand colder temperature. Exercise also increase lean body mass which helps us stay warm.
3) Mind over matter
Focus on feeling how cold it actually is and not on how cold you feel. Also try to think of colder times you have previously experienced. This helps you keep things in perspective and will make winter conditions more bearable by comparison.
4) Eat properly
If you are not properly fed you will not be able to stay warm. People living in cold climates typically have access to food high in fat and protein in the winter. Wintery conditions also reduce access to plants and carbohydrates. Getting extra calories from fat appears to be a good way to stay warm and to help fuel the body with the extra calories it needs to preserve its warmth.
Above all, stay safe. It is ok to dress lightly if you are outside for a short time but make sure you are well prepared when you are going out for longer periods.
Dr. Ludovic Brunel graduated with a degree in Human Nutrition from McGill University in Montreal and pursued his studies in Naturopathic Medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.