Could Winter Weight Be A Good Thing? (Fingers Crossed)
Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
We know the last thing you need on the third day of the New Year is a reason to not
hit the gym. But, hear us out, as not one, but two recent studies suggest that a bit of extra winter weight has some cold-weather benefits. At the 2006 Rottnest Channel Swim in Western Australia, scientists found that swimmers with a greater BMI were at a considerably lower risk of hypothermia. In a separate experiment, doctors found that obese patients who have suffered cardiac arrest took longer to react to therapeutic hypothermia, a treatment used to prevent brain injury and inflammation. Based on both these findings, it seems that body fat insulates the body's core. In other words, a few extra pounds could keep you a bit warmer during the dead of winter. Makes sense, right?
Now for the science part: Our brain combines the temperatures of both the inside and surface of our bodies to determine when to constrict blood vessels. When blood vessels constrict, your body limits heat loss through the skin and receives the cue to shiver, which generates heat. Muscle, too, can generate heat more effectively. So, though people with excess fat might feel colder on their skin — due to the large fat layer insulating their core temperature from their skin — their actual core body temperature will be able to withstand the cold better (the fat keeps the heat in like an extra coat).
We definitely need more research to determine if winter weight is truly beneficial. In the meantime, feel free to use this article to justify abandoning spin class tonight, because YOLO. (Popular Science