10 Surprising Benefits of Colder Winters

By Brittany Lyte on 4 February 2015 0 comments

Heavy snow. High winds. Sub-zero temperatures. You can almost feel the chill just thinking about it, right? But while they conjure unpleasant thoughts of numbing fingers and toes, colder winters do bring about some exciting benefits. (See also: 50 Fun things to Do When You're Stuck Inside for Winter)

1. The Cold Kills Off Bugs

Some ticks, mosquitoes, and stink bugs die off when exposed to freezing temperatures, meaning there are fewer skin bites, garden pests, and unwelcome home visitors in the wintertime. A cold snap can also help kill or reduce cockroach populations.

2. Longer, More Meaningful Phone Conversations

Who we call and how long we speak to them changes with the weather, according to research from Newcastle University. Analysing the call patterns of 1.3 million mobile phone users, a research team found that people tend to have longer phone conversations with a smaller number of people during "uncomfortable" weather conditions. Not only are our conversations longer, they're more more meaningful. When the wind howls and there's a coat of ice on the street, we're more likely to contact our close friends and family rather than our casual friends and acquaintances.

3. Low Temperature Longevity

Preliminary studies show that biting winters may lead to longer life. Researchers from the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the University of Michigan discovered that worms exposed to cold temperatures have longer life spans. Experts aren't sure yet, but they say the same might go for humans, too. "It's too early to say, but it is possible our research applies to humans, because the genetic pathway we identified is found in people," says study author Shawn Xu.

4. The Cold Might Curb Pain

Finnish researchers found that cold-water plunges as well as whole-body cryotherapy sessions can bring about a two to three-fold jump in norepinephrine levels in humans. Norepinephrine is a chemical in the nervous system that is linked to pain suppression, meaning that exposure to extreme cold could reduce our aches and pains temporarily.

5. Cold Helps You Burn Fat

Exposure to a cold snap helps activate brown fat, the heat-producing, calorie-burning fat that helps babies regulate their body temperature, according to literature from Harvard Medical School. Brown fat withers with age, and by adulthood there's not much left of it. But researchers say that when it comes to weight loss, there could be some very mild benefits to cold exposure.

6. Big Hawaiian Surf

Colder air, along with a sagging jet stream and stronger winds, combine to create the massive winter swells that draw surfers from around the globe to the north and west-facing shores of the Hawaiian islands. A monster swell can create 40 to 70 foot waves, some of the largest and deadliest in the world. They're a spectacular sight to see, and for skilled surfers they're an even bigger thrill to ride.

7. It Boosts Our Appreciation of Sunshine

We need a little bad weather here and there to maintain a healthy appreciation for warmth and sunlight. Studies show that if the weather never changes, we lose our gratefulness for the weather when it's truly spectacular. As it turns out, those bone-chilling days of winter are a large part of the reason we're able to truly enjoy the balmy, bluebird sky days of spring.

8. The Fruit Tastes Sweeter

Cold weather is typically no friend to crops. But some of southern Florida's citrus fruits can actually benefit from a well-timed winter freeze. "A good cold snap lowers the acidity in oranges and increases sugar content, (which) sweetens the fruit," Florida Farm Bureau Federation Policy Director Frankie Hall told The Weather Channel.

9. It Helps Runners Recover

Research shows that runners who immerse themselves in extremely cold water after a strenuous run recover from muscle strains more quickly. Experts say the cold shocks the body into recovery mode by reducing inflammation, which helps the muscles fend off aches, pains, and discomfort. It also helps runners regain their muscle strength more quickly.

10. Winter Sports Heat Up

A chill in the air is one of the precursors of a great winter sporting season. Without it, the skiing, riding, and snowshoeing just isn't as enjoyable. During warmer winters, ski resorts and tubing parks tend to open late in the season and close early, and nature trails that can otherwise provide fine terrain for cross country skiing well into April are bare with grass.

How does a cold winter benefit you?

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