In other words: brown fat helps burn white fat.How do we get more of this calorie-burning brown fat? Several studies indicate that spending time in the cold makes brown fat more active and may help create new brown fat cells. A research team at Virginia Commonwealth University found that regular exposure to low temperatures while training changed the way the body processed fat reserves. After a month of exposure to mild cold, participants had a 42% increase in brown fat volume and a 10% increase in fat metabolic activity. Best of all? It doesn’t even need to be that cold to get your brown fat burning. According to George King, chief scientific officer at Joslin Diabetes Center, temperatures around 62 degrees Fahrenheit are enough to activate brown fat. LOWER BLOOD SUGAR Carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of fuel, and cold exposure can cause blood glucose to be burned even more rapidly in order to help heat the body. Chilly temps also prompt our bodies to release hormones which further lower blood sugar – epinephrine stimulates glycogen breakdown, while adiponectin shuttles glucose into muscles. Translation: if you accidentally go for seconds of grandma’s homemade apple pie, an outdoor jaunt could help keep those blood sugar levels in check. IMPROVE IMMUNITY Training in the cold may actually help keep you from catching one. According to a study by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, regular outdoor exercise in the cold reduced the risk of flu susceptibility by 20-30%. Other studies support these findings, indicating that regular exposure to low-temperature training may trigger an adaptive response of the body, and, over time, strengthen our immune response to cold. BETTER MOOD If wintertime makes you feel a little wump wump, it could be due to a dip in vitamin D. Extensive research shows that vitamin D, specifically vitamin D3, is a critical nutrient needed to support our mood and mental state. Vitamin D3 is the form of vitamin D that our bodies make after our skin is exposed to UVB light (it’s also the form we include in all our SmartyPants gummies.) During winter months, our natural vitamin D exposure can be cut almost in half. By taking your training outdoors, you can help keep your vitamin D levels on point while also releasing endorphins for a double dose of feel good vibes.
BUT WAIT…Before you strip down to your skivvies and hit the trail, beware that winter weather is no joke. As we mentioned, cold exposure carries the risk of increased stress on your heart, as well as hypothermia, depending on how cold it is. Both hot and cold-weather workouts call for appropriate prep, which includes dressing for the occasion, always staying hydrated, and a proper warm-up and cool down. We also recommend consulting with your primary healthcare provider before beginning a cold-weather regimen, especially if working out in wintery conditions is new for you.