What Are the Effects of the Cold on the Human Body?
With winter comes cold waves. Unless you stay cooped up at home, they’re hard to get away from. The FizzUp trainer tells you what the effects of the cold on the human body are, in addition to the benefits it has.
What happens in your body when it’s cold outside?
To fight against the cold, your body uses a physiological mechanism called thermoregulation. The goal of this defensive instinct is to keep a drop in body temperature down to a minimum and protect your vital functions.
Shivering, chattering teeth, goose bumps, increased blood pressure, heart rate and breathing as well as vasoconstriction are all reflexes of the human body that help you fight against the cold. They involve the nervous, endocrine, circulatory and respiratory systems. These systems are activated when the temperature around you is low enough to cause your body temperature to drop below below 98.6°F or 37°C.
The body’s typical defense mechanisms against the cold:
- The first signs are physical, such as the chills, chattering teeth or goose bumps.
- Then there’s a vasoconstriction in the skin, or the narrowing of peripheral blood vessels. The heat carried by blood from the deeper organs to the upper parts of the body is limited, which makes it possible to isolate the vital organs and to protect them from a drop in temperature. Vasoconstriction results in increased heart rate and breathing, which helps keep your body temperature high enough.
- If heat stress is too high or if it continues over time, other reflexes may start, but eventually the thermoregulatory system may become weak. Activating the thermoregulatory system boosts the metabolism, which requires significantly high energy consumption. So, your ability to fight against the cold depends on the environment you’re in (cold, humidity, wind, altitude, direct contact with snow) and your personal resources (health status, available energy and fitness). Read on to find out why the cold can be bad for your health.
EFFECTS OF THE COLD ON THE HUMAN BODY: What are the risks?
Exposing your body to the cold can cause discomfort and many other symptoms in your body. The FizzUp trainer gives you the details.
- Catching an illness
Although the cold hasn’t been proven to be directly responsible for the increase in the number of viruses during the winter, it’s still indirectly involved in this phenomenon. In fact, the cold makes more people stay inside, which brings them closer and makes it easier for viruses to spread, increasing the risk of infection.
Long exposure to the cold can cause frostbite that can vary in severity depending on the sensitivity of the people affected and their level of exposure.
- Drowsiness, cramps and musculoskeletal disorders
These symptoms are often due to not getting enough sleep, having poor posture and repeating certain movements.
Once your body temperature falls below 95°F or 35°C, you start to develop hypothermia. This includes chills, severe fatigue, confusion and even a loss of consciousness. In extreme situations, hypothermia can lead to a coma or even death. Dressed in warm clothing and a roof over your head, you don’t run the risk of going into hypothermia overnight.
Effects of the cold on the Human body: What are the benefits?
Although the cold is bad for your body in extreme conditions, it also has many benefits when experienced under the right circumstances. Like Christophe Hausswirth, a researcher at the French Laboratory of Sport, Expertise and Performance, said, “Repeated exposure to the cold has been shown to stimulate your defenses and improve the quality of your sleep and your mood.” As such, the cold has many positive effects for your body. Here’s a detailed list of them.
- The cold burns calories.
The body contains two types of fat. There’s white fat, which stores calories, and brown fat, which is easier to get rid of. According to several studies, the simple fact of having cold or shivering makes it possible to eliminate the brown fat, because that’s what helps regulate your body temperature. Activating your regulation system is also very energy-intensive, which explains why doing a physical activity outside in the cold helps you burn more calories than going outside when it’s sunny and warm.
- The cold soothes the pain and reduces inflammation.
The cold has always been used for its pain-killing effects. It’s an ideal remedy for numbing tissues and soothing aches and pains. Applying ice on the skin is the first thing you should do if you have a sprain or tear a muscle or ligament. High-level athletes increasingly use cryotherapy for maximum recovery after exercise. Although no studies have yet been able to prove it, exposure to extreme cold seems to help athletes recover better than a rest period. Now you can see why January is the best time to work out!
- The cold improves blood flow.
By triggering a vasoconstriction in the skin, the cold improves microcirculation and venous return, which gives your body a real boost and helps keep it stimulated. Your cells are drained and well-nourished, which optimizes the blood supply to your organs.
- The cold boosts your endurance.
According to an American study of marathon runners that studied the link between temperature and performance, the cold can improve your endurance. The ideal temperature for exercise is 41°F or 5°C. So this winter, don’t put your workout clothes in the closet and use the benefits of the cold to improve your physical abilities. Before you face the cold, make sure you’re well prepared and have the right clothing (gloves, hats and thermal underwear, especially).
Despite the popular beliefs about winter, the cold isn’t only dangerous. The effects of the cold on the human body can also be positive. As you can see, you can still do a physical activity in cold weather and it can even be beneficial! Just be sure to prepare yourself right so that you can face the cold safely. If the cold isn’t really your cup of tea, you can always work out warm at home using FizzUp online fitness training.
What about you? What are your tips and tricks to face the cold weather?