Surprising health benefits of cold weather

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As soon as winter hits, everyone brings out their cozy knitted jumpers, wooly hats and scarves, excitedly anticipating the first flurry of snow and the joy of Christmas. Very quickly, though, we realise that being eternally cold isn’t as much fun as we thought, and we’re longing for those warm rays of sunshine that announce the arrival of spring. But could the cold weather actually have some benefits outside of making snowmen and using the log fire? There are some health benefits that cold spells bring with them that are pretty surprising.

Brain booster

Complex mental processes such as problem solving and critical thinking are easier in the cold winter months than they are in the summer. Research has shown that these kind of mental tasks are performed much better in a cooler environment than a warmer one because the glucose that is required by the brain to process them is used up much faster when you are warm, rather than when you are cold. So, next time you’re scratching your head, take yourself out for a walk in the crisp air and you may find you can concentrate better.

Burn more calories

As warm-blooded mammals, our bodies self-regulate our internal body temperature at around 37°C (98°F). When the surrounding temperature is warm anyway, it doesn’t take much for our bodies to top it up to that sweet figure. When it’s cold outside, however, a lot more energy is required to keep us warm, which means we have to burn more calories just to keep ourselves at a temperature we can function properly at. This means that you need to make sure you eat more calories than you would doing the same activities in the summer, as a lot more calories are burned at a base level.

Allergies improve

One of the most common allergies people suffer from is pollen, causing itchy eyes, a runny nose and a scratchy throat. Luckily, the pollen counts in the winter are at their lowest, as most plants are in hibernation. It is only in the spring, when leaves return on the trees and flowers start to bloom that they release their pollen into the atmosphere in order to reproduce. So make the most of spending time outside when it’s cold if you’re allergic to pollen! Unfortunately, if your allergies are for dust mites or mold, these are more likely to flare up in the winter months as you will be spending more time indoors, where these allergens linger.

Less inflammation

If you injure yourself, it is likely that you will experience swelling in the affected area. The home remedy for swelling is to whack a pack of frozen peas on the inflamed region. The reason for this is because this narrows the blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the area, and therefore allowing less fluid to be released into the tissue. If you are out in the cold anyway, then this natural reaction will already be in place, so if you are unlucky enough to sprain a knee, the inflammation won’t be nearly as bad as it would in the summer months.

Cold weather doesn’t have to be miserable, especially when you think about these benefits to your health you can enjoy. So make the most of having a clear head, both mentally and non-allergically speaking, and enjoy those hearty dishes that only seem right in the winter – knowing that you don’t have to work out for half an hour to burn it off!

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