How to help the body adapt to cold weather faster
Autumn is in full swing and in the northern hemisphere, the thermometer is dropping ever lower, so many US residents have to get used to the cold weather. The good news: there is a way to help your body do this faster.
Back in the 1960 years, U.S. Army researchers found that naked men who spent 8 hours a day in the chamber at 50 ° F (10 ° C) got used to the cold and stopped trembling after 2 weeks, writes T. More recent studies by teams from Scandinavia and the UK have also concluded that people can get used to a cool environment. And a recent review of studies by military experts showed that all people seem to have the ability to acclimatize to the cold.
During the 2014 study of the year, later published in the journal PLOS One, a group of healthy men spent up to 3 hours a day sitting in bathtubs filled with water at temperatures around 57 ° F (around 14 ° C) - this is about the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean along the coastline New Jersey and New York at the end of October, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
At the beginning of the 20-day study, men trembled, which is the initial reaction of the human body to cooling. Their heart rate and metabolism accelerated, generating heat. At the same time, their blood vessels narrowed and diverged from the surface of the skin, causing a decrease in skin temperature. In fact, the vascular system contracted, directing blood to warmer insides to avoid external cold.
But by 20 day, much has changed. The trembling almost stopped. Although metabolism and heart rate were still accelerated in a bath of cold water, blood vessels no longer contracted and skin temperature did not drop as it did before. Men reported less discomfort. At the same time, their blood samples contained fewer markers of stress caused by cold, and immune system activity. It seems their bodies are used to the cold.
Changes your body experiences in cold weather
“Everyone has the opportunity to get used to some degree to the cold,” says Marius Brazaitis, the first author of the study and senior researcher at the Lithuanian University of Sports. He says that human bodies achieve acclimatization through a combination of various internal changes that people can either support or suppress depending on their behavior.
There is evidence that a certain type of adipose tissue, known as “brown fat,” can help the body generate heat in response to constantly cold conditions.
“Chronic cold exposure somehow activates brown fat, which we know is undergoing dramatic seasonal changes,” said Shingo Kazimura, professor of cell and tissue biology at the University of California, San Francisco.
Kazimura says newborns have a lot of brown fat, which helps them stay warm because they don't have enough muscle to tremble. Although it was once thought that people lose their reserves of brown fat as they grow from infancy, studies have shown that parts of the body of an adult, in particular the area around the upper spine and neck, either retain brown fat or generate new in response to cooling.
The placement of this brown fat is important. Kazimura says that the perception of temperature is controlled by the brain, which partially detects the cold, noting the temperature of the blood entering it through the neck.
“That's why putting on a scarf makes you feel warm,” he says.
By heating the neck and blood flowing through it, the scarf “deceives” the brain, forcing it to believe that it is warm around - just like the cold tissue on the neck can help the brain cool in the summer. It is possible that in response to regular exposure to cold, brown fat in the neck forms a shape and becomes more active, which allows us to feel more comfortable at lower temperatures.
Brazaitis says that the human body seems to have a number of different mechanisms that help it adapt to the cold. But most people in the developed world suppress these adaptive mechanisms, at least to some extent, protecting their bodies from “heat stress”.
“Wearing more clothes, drinking more hot drinks, increasing room temperature, consuming more food, which increases the rate of internal metabolism - this behavior does not allow [the body] to become more resistant to cold,” he says.
Pulling a sweater or drinking hot tea alone does not do long-term harm, although it impedes the body’s ability to get used to the cold, but running a thermostat in your car or home costs money. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, home and vehicle heating is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions. By encouraging your body to adapt to the cold, you can feel comfortable in the fall and winter without having to rely completely on the heating system.
According to Brazaitis, it’s worth adjusting your thermostat by a few degrees, discarding excess layers of clothing and spending more time outdoors in cold conditions - that is, doing what mainly causes you to shiver - you will help your body get used to the cold. The expert says that if you manage to cause a shiver from the cold several times a day, you will begin to feel more comfortable in cold weather.
The fastest way to adapt to the cold
If you really want to accelerate the body’s addiction to cold and do not have contraindications, a cold shower will help you.
“A cold shower is not a lot of fun, but it makes the body adapt rather quickly,” says John Castellani, a US physiologist and researcher who studied how people react and adapt to the cold. He suggests starting with a simple exposure to a cold shower - say, for 15 seconds - and adding 10 seconds every day (after you have stood this time, you can increase the temperature of the water).
Cold showers and other cold exposures are safe for most and may even be beneficial to your health. But people at risk for heart disease need to be careful.
“The first thing that happens when you are exposed to the cold is a narrowing of your blood vessels and an increase in blood pressure,” Castellani says. “Therefore, exposure to cold - especially severe cold, such as jumping into an ice lake - can cause a heart attack or other problems in people suffering from heart disease.”
But if your heart is healthy and you strive to use the body’s natural ability to adapt to the cold, a week of trembling - and perhaps a few sessions of a cold shower - should work.
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