Author Topic: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?  (Read 7007 times)

maisymouser

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 500
  • Age: 31
  • Location: NC
Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« on: November 01, 2021, 04:53:48 PM »
Long story short, I am trying to be badass and embrace the cooling weather, and not dread winter quite as much as usual. I have been reminding myself of the vast amount of anecdotal references Mr. MM makes to "cold acclimation"*.

I very much want to believe in this but maybe a bit of scientific evidence from the MMM forum would help? Is this a documented phenomenon beyond MM's word?

At the very least, if you have a success story to share I'd like to hear it. I'm someone who puts on a winter jacket at ~50F and am trying to expand my temperature comfort horizons so that the 60F (or maybe even lower) thermostat setting I'd like to target for this winter doesn't end up being an exercise in continual slight discomfort. I was thinking of implementing some sort of "I'm feeling cold so I need to get up and moving" plan for this winter- historically I have just bundled up and stayed in bed (much) longer than in warm months.

*https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/06/14/the-worlds-most-efficient-air-conditioner/ - addresses heat acclimation and references cold acclimation, best relevant article I could find on this subject on the MMM site that addresses this topic


Malcat

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 11134
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2021, 04:57:45 PM »
I HATE being cold, but I'm able to be perfectly comfortable outside for hours in -40F/C.

Your body is perfectly capable of being warm in any climate, as long as you have appropriate insulation.

Invest in proper gear, buy some high quality merino wool clothes. It's not hard to be comfortable, you just need the right clothes.

FTR, I don't remember MMM ever talking about actual cold acclimation, but I do remember him talking about layering properly to be comfortable in cold, which makes it a lot easier to go outside.

For me, I grew up in the freezing cold. My father kept the house so cold his own mother wouldn't visit. My water glass regularly froze during the night.

I never adapted, it's what made me hate the cold so much. I swore I would never allow myself to be uncomfortable due to cold ever again. That's why I own good gear, so that I can be comfortable no matter what.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2021, 05:00:27 PM by Malcat »

chemistk

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1516
  • Location: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2021, 06:41:11 AM »
Seconded on the importance of gear.

I'm someone who's fine being inside a house at 60F all day, but hates being out in the cold unless I'm moving around.

As the weather gets cooler, my goal turns toward keeping my core and extremities insulated and DRY . If you want to assess the disproportional perception of cold your body puts on extremities, go stand outside in the cold while wearing cotton socks & tennis shoes, and then swap those out for wool socks and insulated shoes/boots. Your perception of how cold it is will shift dramatically.

You should really be looking at keeping your body warm from your core & base-layer out and not a top-layer in. A good flannel and a warm vest will keep you feeling warmer than a great coat and a crappy t shirt. The idea is to trap as much heat against your skin first, and then shield from the elements second. And in trapping heat against your skin, your core should be top priority. Your body will move heat away from your extremities if your core isn't sufficiently warm.

I keep many pairs of wool socks, synthetic/wool t-shirts, synthetic underwear, and synthetic thermal underwear. You should ideally be changing at least your socks but also other base-layer clothes as you go throughout the day. Clothes, even slightly wet from sweat, do orders of magnitude worse at keeping you warm than dry ones (even if the only dry ones you have to change to are cotton). In acclimating to the cold, build a base layer first that you can still do your daily tasks in. I typically wear thermal underwear, jeans, and a flannel or sweater on a daily basis, with a quality coat when going outside. Your base layer should be good enough that after you start moving around, you can take off your coat and still be comfortable.

It's also important to keep moving. Sitting still all day isn't doing you any favors. You'll find that if you get your heart rate up regularly (jumping jacks are great for this), you'll feel less cold. Just don't forget that if you do too much activity while being too insulated, you'll actually feel colder when you stop moving thanks to the cooling evaporation factor.

Now, I will say that some people are just more naturally acclimated to the cold. I think we all knew "that guy" in HS/College who would wear shorts and sandals even when it's 20F outside. I don't know that there's a way to becoming "that guy" if you weren't born with an internal heat regulation that rivals the surface of the sun.




Askel

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 624
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2021, 07:12:22 AM »
That Guy checking in. :) 


Just a note that while good gear is important- you still gotta generate some heat internally.  The vast majority of calories you burn are just keeping you at a healthy 98.6F.  When it's colder, it takes more calories to do that.  More complex carbs can help with that. But don't forget the being active part, otherwise they go straight to a nice warm layer of Nature's Own Natural Body Insulation(tm).   

uniwelder

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1088
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Appalachian Virginia
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2021, 07:13:56 AM »
I only have anecdotal information, but acclimation is surely real.  Here's some examples---

1) My wife came to the US from a tropical (Yucatan) area of Mexico.  50F was gloves, hat, and winter jacket weather for the first year, never mind how she felt once it actually got cold outside come winter.  Second and third year going forward, her body had adjusted and only felt 'normal' cold.  Yucatan is too hot now for her.  She also finds that she eats twice as much (higher metabolism) as when she was living in Mexico.

2) When I visit Yucatan, everyone is wearing jackets and gloves in the early mornings when its about 65F outside, while I'm in a t-shirt, relishing the little bit of cool.

3) Think about how you feel in fall vs spring.  The first cold days of fall-winter seem to feel worse than the reemergence of winter-spring, given then same outside temperature.  Same as spring-summer first day of heat versus end of summer into fall. 

How quickly your body can adapt (a couple weeks versus a few months) and whether your body tends to run naturally cold (slow metabolism) will definitely factor in.  As previously mentioned, I vote for moving your body when you get the chills.

Malcat

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 11134
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2021, 08:11:15 AM »
That Guy checking in. :) 


Just a note that while good gear is important- you still gotta generate some heat internally.  The vast majority of calories you burn are just keeping you at a healthy 98.6F.  When it's colder, it takes more calories to do that.  More complex carbs can help with that. But don't forget the being active part, otherwise they go straight to a nice warm layer of Nature's Own Natural Body Insulation(tm).

I personally do IF and find I'm warmer in ketosis because it raises my metabolism. So i'm unconvinced that complex carbs are the secret to feeling warm.

chemistk

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1516
  • Location: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2021, 09:14:04 AM »
That Guy checking in. :) 


Just a note that while good gear is important- you still gotta generate some heat internally.  The vast majority of calories you burn are just keeping you at a healthy 98.6F.  When it's colder, it takes more calories to do that.  More complex carbs can help with that. But don't forget the being active part, otherwise they go straight to a nice warm layer of Nature's Own Natural Body Insulation(tm).

I personally do IF and find I'm warmer in ketosis because it raises my metabolism. So i'm unconvinced that complex carbs are the secret to feeling warm.

Moreover, not every body was created equally. I think it's important to avoid telling someone who's looking for the secret to feeling warm in cold weather to adjust their diet. That can definitely be part of the solution, but some of the healthier people I know still feel colder than average. Blood pressure/circulation and individual metabolic rates play a huge factor in feeling warm.

lhamo

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2037
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2021, 11:13:32 AM »
We did this both directions when we lived in Beijing.  Our HVAC system was incredibly expensive to run, so we gradually adjusted to being able to tolerate higher temperatures in the summer (28ish C during the day, 25 at night) and lower in the winter (16ish).  We did do a lot of layering in the winter.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 20566
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2021, 08:12:14 PM »
I grew up pretty deep in Northern Ontario, where we had a couple months every year of -40 weather.  Warm clothing is important, but your body does get used to cold temperatures.  Just regularly being in cooler temperatures will change what you become comfortable with.

MasterStache

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2869
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2021, 07:00:53 AM »
I was stationed up north for 3.5 years. I definitely became acclimated to the colder, harsher climate as I often would wear clothing in 40 degree temps that I typically wear in 60 degree temps where I live now.

When I attended BMT in Texas, I actually got yelled at for throwing on some shorts to run in 40 degree temps. By the time I was done running I was sweating pretty good. 

Adventine

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2146
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Memphis, USA
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2021, 07:47:58 AM »
I spent the first 30 years of my life in the tropics, meaning 80-90F weather all year round. If the temp ever dipped into the 60s, it would make the national news.

Then I moved to a place with wild swings in temp (it was in the 30s a few days ago but forecasted to reach the 70s by Christmas).This is the first year of my life experiencing an actual autumn and winter.

At the start of autumn, I was miserable with the cold. Having grown up going either barefoot or in flipflops when I'm at home, it felt strange and unnatural to me having to constantly wear socks and layers.

But humans being naturally adaptable, I got used to bundling up after a couple of months.

Some things that made cold acclimation easier for me:

- Uniqlo Heattech undershirts, leggings and socks. Relatively cheap, very lightweight, and good insulation.
- I sleep with an electric blanket (pre-warming the bed before laying down is a must!)
- I also have that weird Asian habit of drinking hot water. Plain hot water. no tea or anything.

I expect my cold resistance to go up the more time I spend in the US.

eyesonthehorizon

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 337
  • Location: Texas
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #11 on: December 27, 2021, 08:37:28 PM »
As a tiny & formerly frigid lady: the value of building some muscle mass (which will raise your basal metabolic rate by just existing) cannot be overstated. Not only is it useful in moving you & other stuff around, which can also create a feedback loop of moving around more often simply because the friction of effort is reduced, it's very helpful with thermoregulation: warmer in the winters but I didn't find myself hotter in the summers with the (slight) bulk, either.

Morning Glory

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4147
  • Location: The Garden Path
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2021, 09:05:09 PM »
I just relocated south from Minnesota. It is 65F and I'm sitting on the balcony,  quite comfortable in shorts and tank top. On my walk earlier I saw many people wearing long pants and hoodies, and quite a few in actual coats. We were definitely the odd ones out!

Cranky

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3509
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2021, 05:38:41 AM »
I grew up in Florida. I live in Wisconsin.

Iím okay outside in the winter because I dress for it and keep moving - Iím a little cold when I start walking and after a mile or so Iím slightly sweaty.

I have more trouble staying warm inside because I find multiple layers of clothing physically uncomfortable. I often wear a hat inside, which helps, and I use an electric throw. Iím still more comfortable in the summer.

trollwithamustache

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1080
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2021, 09:24:13 AM »
I don't think your body really adapts, but we live in a wonderful world full of really good stuff. (its just hidden in all the crap on amazon.) Somehow I survived in upstate NY. Later I went from California to a stint in Kansas. Cold AF, but after a few weeks I remembered how to layer, bought better socks and finally learned how to use a scarf. (add that to the list of failings of the California school systems!)

Shuchong

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 63
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #15 on: February 19, 2022, 09:56:24 PM »
Where I grew up, it is pretty regularly -25F in the winter.  In fact, that was the cut off temperature for outdoor recess in elementary school.  Every spring, without fail, on the first 20+ degree day our coats would feel too hot and we'd take them off and run around in just tshirts.  In my experience, though, that "this is so great and warm" feeling doesn't last long.  A few weeks/months at most.

maisymouser

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 500
  • Age: 31
  • Location: NC
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #16 on: February 20, 2022, 06:04:02 AM »
I don't think your body really adapts, but we live in a wonderful world full of really good stuff. (its just hidden in all the crap on amazon.) Somehow I survived in upstate NY. Later I went from California to a stint in Kansas. Cold AF, but after a few weeks I remembered how to layer, bought better socks and finally learned how to use a scarf. (add that to the list of failings of the California school systems!)

Any specific recommendations or must-haves? I could add them to my price watches on Amazon... Hoping maybe I can remember to snag some decent deals during the warm season this year.

okisok

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 627
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #17 on: February 23, 2022, 09:10:54 PM »
Icebreakers merino wool shirts are great underlayers. They have other items like long underwear and sweater, but I don't have any personal experience with them. I got one shirt from a second-hand store and one from Moosejaw.com on a huge sale.
I wear snow pants to keep my legs warm for spending any time outside in the cold. They are Arcterx brand, inexpensive ones from Amazon. Not to be confused with Arc'teryx, the snazzier outdoor brand.
This year I finally broke down and bought a fabulous, down-filled, knee length, sherpa lined, rated to 0 degrees, LL Bean winter coat. I thought it would be overkill, but I have actually enjoyed being outside in cold weather for the first time...ever.


meadow lark

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6858
  • Location: Louisiana
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #18 on: February 25, 2022, 07:35:05 AM »
Itís extremely variable based on biology.  For instance, red heads are more sensitive to cold. 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1692342/#:~:text=We%20found%20that%20redheads%20were,not%20significantly%20so%2C%20in%20redheads.

Part of it for me is expectation.  If I expect to be mildly uncomfortable in the winter my brain does less chattering about it.

But mostly, I just turn up the heat.

eyesonthehorizon

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 337
  • Location: Texas
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #19 on: March 12, 2022, 01:40:48 PM »
... This year I finally broke down and bought a fabulous, down-filled, knee length, sherpa lined, rated to 0 degrees, LL Bean winter coat. I thought it would be overkill, but I have actually enjoyed being outside in cold weather for the first time...ever.
This. I never, ever, ever enjoyed being out in the cold until I got a proper coat, & then suddenly it was like a whole new world opened up.

vand

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1969
  • Location: UK
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #20 on: March 22, 2022, 09:31:23 AM »
Interesting topic.

There is certainly a fairly large amount of what I would call "soft science" behind cold thermogenesis.
 
Actually, some of it is pretty hard science - stuff like brown fat activation can be pretty easily shown.

There probably isn't an elite athlete today who doesn't engage in cold therapy sessions to aid with their recovery.

Bloggers like Ben Greenfield would have written and forgotten more about cold therapy than I can even remember, so I would say to do some googling there.

The key thing though, that there should be a wholistic approach, rather just doing the cold therapy part - that means looking at all aspects of your lifestyle. Diet, training, recovery, etc. They all reinforce and complement one another. Just taking cold showers by itself is not going to turn your life or your health around.

maisymouser

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 500
  • Age: 31
  • Location: NC
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #21 on: July 15, 2022, 02:31:22 PM »
Hi friends- I have an update for this thread, though it's not EXACTLY on topic.

I'm reading David A. Sinclair's "Lifespan", which is a fascinating and cutting-edge summary of where we are at with longevity research (especially at the biochemical level). Sinclair says that to live longer (and be healthy later in life), we should:

-Eat less (not totally unsurprising)
-Exercise more (definitely not surprising)
-EXPOSE OURSELVES TO UNCOMFORTABLE TEMPERATURES (wuuuuhhhh?!?)

Turns out, simply taking one's body out of the thermoneutral zone induces all kinds of healthy stressors.
Quote
A team from Scripps genetically engineered some lab mice to live their lives a half degree cooler than normal- a feat they accomplisehd by playing a trick on the mice's biological thermostat. The team inserted copies of the mouse UCP2 gene into the mice's hypothalmus, which regulates the skin, sweat glands, and blood vessels. UCP2 short-circuited mitochondria in the hypothalamus so they produced less energy but more heat. That, in turn, caused the mice to cool down about half a degree Celsius. The result was a 20 percent longer life for female mice, the equivalent about seven additional healthy human years, while male mice got an extension of 12 percent.

He goes into further detail- I highly recommend checking out this book from your local library if you're interested- but I am pretty amazed. I knew MMM himself purported that getting cold increases overall vitality, but I didn't realize it could do some serious extension on a healthy lifespan.

I often joke that I find something new each year to 'up my winter game'. One year it was wool socks, another it was making hot pads filled with corn, another year it was setting up a space heater fort with my son. This year I have some good knowledge to try and tough out colder weather instead of trying to hide from it. (I am writing this during July, so it's easy to say right now...)

sonofsven

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1045
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #22 on: July 15, 2022, 07:00:06 PM »
Have you heard of Wim Hoff (aka 'The Iceman")? He's done some interesting experience/experiments involving what he calls "cold therapy".
I like the breathing exercises, but I haven't ventured into the cold water yet! This is his most basic breathing exercise https://youtu.be/0BNejY1e9ik
Also the Finns would traditionally warm up in the sauna then cool off in cold water, then repeat the cycle. It's invigorating.
A sauna is something I would like to build someday.

eyesonthehorizon

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 337
  • Location: Texas
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #23 on: July 15, 2022, 10:47:20 PM »
Saunas are also correlated with health, for whatever reason (wealth can't be overlooked.) I wonder if exposure to temperature extremes in both directions is healthy, & what circumstances make that so.

Just as I keep it very cool in the house in winter, it's quite warm in the house in summer, generally never below 80 unless cooled via ambient air (rarely does it ever get that low in full summer, though.) I also bathe/ shower in extremely hot water when it's cool, but run cold water showers (very tepid due to ground heat) in summer. The novelty of big temperature swings relative to what the body is acclimated to is sort of oddly fun.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 20566
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #24 on: July 17, 2022, 01:36:49 PM »
Saunas are also correlated with health, for whatever reason (wealth can't be overlooked.)

There's a fair bit of science indicating that the heat shock proteins your body creates while exposed to the high temperatures in saunas is beneficial for longevity - unrelated to wealth.

Askel

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 624
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #25 on: July 17, 2022, 05:32:43 PM »
Saunas are also correlated with health, for whatever reason (wealth can't be overlooked.)

Saunas are also known as the poor man's doctor here.   

risky4me

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 95
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #26 on: September 03, 2022, 01:00:40 PM »
Lived my life in Alaska. Not sure of the science but the first time it drops to zero(F) in the fall it feels horribly cold. Then after 30 below zero feels great!

clarkfan1979

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2967
  • Age: 43
  • Location: Pueblo West, CO
Re: Cold Acclimation - Is there science behind this?
« Reply #27 on: September 19, 2022, 06:44:02 PM »
Lived my life in Alaska. Not sure of the science but the first time it drops to zero(F) in the fall it feels horribly cold. Then after 30 below zero feels great!

In the General Psychology textbook, they call it sensory adaptation.