During winter it is not uncommon for many to complain about the dropping temperatures, shun the outdoors, and yearn instead for the sweet summer weather. Yes, summer days are longer, leaves are greener, wildlife abounds, and we can wear less clothing! However, this ‘grass-is-greener’ outlook encourages us to forget about the less enjoyable aspects of the more bountiful season; biting flies, trickling sweat, blisteringly hot car interiors, weeds and brush that can only be tamed by machetes!
Instead of dwelling on all the warm weather activities you might be missing, remember that the cold serves its purpose as well. There are a number of benefits the lower temperatures offer, many of which may surprise you! Take heart for now, and count your blessings (even if you still count the days until you can trade those enormous boots for some slim sandals)!
Colder Temps, Longer Life
Believe it or not, exposure to colder temperatures may actually add years to your life! Preliminary studies on worms at the University of Michigan suggest that colder temperatures can trigger a genetic response causing increased lifespan. This genetic pathway towards cold-induced longevity has also been identified in humans. Other creatures that dwell in cold climates are often found to have much longer life expectancies when compared similar species found in more temperate areas
In addition, folks who spend a lot of time outdoors in the winter report an increasing tolerance to the lower temperatures as well as more energy. It would seem that the fresh, crisp winter air contributes to a person’s heartiness and vigor. Who hasn’t taken a cold shower in the morning to wake up or felt rejuvenated by a brisk walk in the winter months?
Bugs Be Gone!
Ultra low temperatures may bring a host of hazards, such as frozen pipes and unsafe road conditions, but it’s hard to deny winter’s effect on insects. Extended periods of low temperatures can decimate populations of pests. The Emerald Ash Borer is a ravenous invasive species that is causing harm to Ash trees in many states. After record low temperatures, some states are expecting as much as 80% of the population to be wiped out!
Every species of insect has a different strategy for over-wintering, and many beneficial types, such as bees, are not as vulnerable to cold snaps. Freezing temperatures have a proven to damage the populations of gypsy moths, stinkbugs, and ticks, which is good news. Even if your state doesn’t stay in single digit temperatures for long, radical variations can confuse populations, too! A warm week can encourage some insects to come out of dormancy too early, only to be eradicated when the temperatures suddenly plummet.
The Social Network
A surprising benefit is the boon bad weather has for your relationships. Analysis of phone records has shown marked increases in minutes utilized during times of both extreme hot and cold weather. When we are unable to venture outside, we often reach out to close friends and family via phone. Though this may not serve to help us make new friends, it allows us to grow closer to existing friends, helping us to forge a better support network for ourselves and others. Winter is the perfect time to give that distant relative a call!
Freezing Makes Us Feel Better
Not only do the cold temperatures help give us more energy, they can also have an analgesic effect on some aches and pains. If you’ve ever applied ice to an injury to reduce swelling, being exposed to the cold can help reduce inflammation in the same way. Studies have shown that cold therapy is very effective when it comes to reducing pain and many athletes enjoy ice baths after a strenuous workout to prevent swelling and soreness. The appearance of bruises can be reduced from cold exposure and low temperatures can prompt your body to release epinephrine in increased amounts, a chemical that suppresses aches and pain.
As far as illnesses go, being outside in frigid weather will not increase your chances of ‘catching a cold’ in any way–it may actually help prevent a sickness! Colds are transmitted by viruses which are most easily contracted indoors, in the company of other sick people in close quarters.