cold weather health tips

The winter months are always associated with colds, flu, and a lack of sunlight, and generally don’t seem to be particularly great for your health compared to the summer. Even if you’re running across London or exercising outside, it can be hard to imagine you are getting a health boost from the rain and freezing temperatures. But there are actually some benefits that come with cold weather you wouldn’t necessarily expect.

As sunny days get fewer and further between and Blue Monday next week, it’s worth taking a look at some cold weather health tips that give you an immune boost.

The cold weather health tips that benefit your health

Better sleep

The first benefit to your health from cool weather is your sleep – it will generally be better than in the summer months, and you’ll probably go to bed earlier. You naturally sleep better at a cool room temperature (not freezing of course) because it helps lower core body temperature. We associate winter with animals hibernating – and we tend to want to stay indoors under warm blankets during the cold days and nights too. Keep extra layers around to make sure you don’t get too cold, which is obviously detrimental. Unfortunately, the flip side is less sunlight, and wanting to keep the heating on indoors leads to drowsiness, so try to get out into the sunlight as early as you can to combat that. Check out these sleep podcasts for some extra help.

It can burn off a few more calories

Winter is unfortunately a time when we put on weight a bit too easily, with hot drinks and comfort eating to get through the darker days. But when you need to burn off some of those calories, exercising in cool weather can help you get rid of a little bit more. The cold means your body will be working a little bit harder than normal to raise its body temperature. Even just shivering can shave off a few calories: it won’t be a cheeseburger’s worth, but chipping away at the calories will add up. Just don’t go and stand in the middle of the park with nothing but a shirt and shorts on when it’s -1°C because you’ll probably just give yourself hypothermia.

cold weather health tips

It can improve brain function

Surprisingly, rather than giving you brain freeze (excuse the pun) cold weather can actually boost your brain function. This is because the cooler temperature stimulates your brain activity, allowing you to think more clearly and easily. So a bit of exposure to cold weather might make those fiendish pub quiz questions a bit easier. Research has shown we do better cognitively in cooler temperatures, and we tend to be more up for mental work during winter months. A shame most exams are in the summer then.

It can improve your skin

Cold weather can be beneficial for your skin. It increases your circulation, which reduces inflammation in the face – trying facial massage can also achieve good results too. It also helps to rejuvenate the skin and clear up your pores. Additionally, it’ll put a bit of colour in the cheeks and help revive tired skin when you go outside and take in the cool air. Plus, all that better sleep that you get from cooler nights will help your overall skin health and reduce circles under your eyes.

cold weather health tips

Cold weather can help with inflammation

Everyone remembers the famous ice packs at school if you fell over in the playground and hurt your ankle – and the same thing applies in cold weather. Exposure to winter temperatures will help ease inflammation in much the same way an ice pack does, and it can help reduce local pain and joint stiffness. Again, as always don’t overdo it – you’ll probably get some steady relief by walking in the cold, but not if you stick your leg (or whatever part of you is injured) into a freezing lake.

It boosts the immune system

One of the most surprising cold weather health tips: we all expect to get cold and flu during the winter months – and haven’t we just spent the last few years being told that winter is when we’re most at risk from illness? This is all true, but the cold weather does help boost the immune system. Going outside during the colder months helps you build a stronger immunity to illnesses, and allows you to get away from the indoors where the majority of these flus and viruses are spread (again, as we’ve been told countless times recently…). The fresh clean air will also benefit you in this way, and exercising in cold weather will help even more. Do remember to get a good amount of vitamin D though, which is more challenging in these months. In the UK winter sunlight is not enough to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D, so you need to get more from foods like eggs, cereals, and fish. Taking a supplement isn’t a bad idea either, and is encouraged by the NHS.

It clears up allergies

This one is pretty obvious – you don’t tend to get hay fever when it’s snowing outside. Pollen counts are lowered hugely in winter, to the point they’re pretty much non-existent. While you may be more likely to get a cold in winter, you at least won’t spend weeks on end sneezing and having runny eyes if you tend to get hay fever. Eczema and other skin conditions can also be lessened during the colder months of the year.

Your heart will be strengthened

As mentioned earlier, cold weather makes your body work harder to raise your body temperature and your heart will benefit: your cardiovascular system will be energised and more effective. It’ll make your heart muscles stronger, and your circulation will be better. You may even see better performance than during summer, thanks to less heat and humidity. You’ll be healthier as a result – though be careful if you have asthma or blood pressure issues – these can be complicated by exerting yourself in cold weather, so read up on your specific condition and consult your GP.

cold weather health tips

Cold showers can be beneficial for you too

Okay, so this isn’t an effect from weather, but while we’re on the subject of how cold temperatures can be good for you, we thought we’d add this to the list of cold weather health tips. Cold showers can be beneficial for your health, and good for reaping the benefits of the cold even during the summer. Freezing showers are usually associated with comically poor hotels or a 5am start in the military, but they can be of use. They can boost your metabolism, and your body will expend energy to keep you warm, in turn helping to a few calories and get you in good standing for exercise.

Cold showers also help with depression and anxiety by reducing stress, though this seems to be somewhat subjective in studies. Further, cold water can reduce muscle soreness after a workout, though we wouldn’t advise taking an ice bath unless you’re a top athlete. It can also help with skin problems like eczema, since hot water tends to dry out the skin. Again, don’t overdo it – keep the showers cooler than normal but not ice cold, because you’ll probably not reap many benefits and it may be detrimental, not least because you’re freezing. Just be careful and lower the temperature gradually, and if you have a heart condition you should avoid cold showers altogether.


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