What if boosting your metabolism could be as easy as shivering? It just may be! According to a new study, 15 minutes in the cold just could be the metabolic equivalent of an hour of exercise.
You may not have known this but you have two different types of fat in your body and they each have different properties. White fat, which is what tends to stretch your pants to their limits and spill over your waistband, stores energy. No surprise there. You also have some brown fat, which gets its color from its iron content. When stimulated, it burns calories and generates heat. So while the white fat becomes insulation of sorts, the brown fat is active. Babies have a lot of brown fat. Most adults have varying amounts but not that much. Leaner people tend to have a greater amount of it than heavier people but whether that is genetic or not isn’t known.
All the more reason to learn how to activate it.
Researchers, in the study referenced above, observed healthy men and women as they exercised in a 65°F lab. Later those same study participants lay on a bed as the temperature fell to 53°F. In both of those tests these people’s muscles contracted (they were shivering!), released the hormone irisin, which is produced in skeletal muscle. This hormone raises body heat and creates brown fat cells from existing white fat cells.
Researchers were puzzled at this finding and hypothesized that since the ancient biological survival mechanism, shivering, which is prompted by cold, helps us maintain our core temperature, preventing hypothermia, perhaps it would stimulate irisin release. They designed tests to find out if shivering rather than exercise was the primary driver of irisin secretion. And that’s exactly what they found. But irisin is produced by muscle contractions, whether by exercise or shivering, and once it’s produced, it circulates through the blood changing white fat cells into brown ones.
While research has no conclusive answers as to how these findings can benefit us in maintaining healthy weight and metabolism, they did find that the response to cold exposure can be activated even by very minimal changes in temperature. In this study they demonstrated that just by lowering the thermostat from 74°F to 68°F was sufficient to generate a measurable increase in energy expenditure.
So perhaps just continue staying active and exercising, lower your thermostat just a little bit and get out in the brisk winter weather a little each day for a walk (properly dressed of course) to get the benefit of some colder air and hopefully some sunshine as well.
You can also, if you have no heart problems, gradually turn the temperature down in your shower from hot to warm to cooler to cold and let it hit the back of your neck and upper back for a few minutes. It’s one of the tips I share in Today is Still the Day. As long as you use wisdom it just might give your metabolism a boost!
What do you think about shivering boosting metabolism?
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There’s still plenty of time to get in shape for swimsuit season!
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Ann, that is facinating. How interesting that different colored fat does different things.
I know Debbie! Truly we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
There are so many benefits to cold exposure but I can’t make myself do it. Do you take cold showers or anything of the sort?
I love how you always offer baby steps! I can turn down my thermostat. Although, I think I’m done going outside until next winter. 😉
Thanks for great weekly reminders that give me a little nudge to do better.
We haven’t had a hugely snowy winter but VERY cold! I am definitely ready for spring. I do occasionally do the cold ending to my showers but mostly in the summer time. It’s definitely hard to do when I sit with a heating pad in the house since we keep the thermostat kind of low. But spring is coming, Holly – so hang in there!
Closer each day!
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