Do you need another incentive to turn your thermostat down? If saving money on your utility bills and decreasing your dependence on fossil fuels isn't enough for you, recent research suggests that you can lose weight by knocking the temperature down by a few notches. We all want to be comfortable in our homes, but it turns out that being a little chilly might be good for us.
Prime Your Internal Furnace
Former NASA employee Ray Cronise has advanced a hypothesis that reliable indoor heating is one culprit for growing rates of obesity and accompanying diseases like diabetes in the United States. The idea is simple: The human body needs to burn energy to warm itself. Over the course of our evolution, humans were exposed to more cold than we are today, when we spend the winter commuting in a heated car between a heated home and heated office. When a body no longer needs to work to warm itself, that energy turns to fat instead.
“Our body temperature remains constant and it takes a lot of energy to keep it that way, no different than heating your house," Cronise said to ABC News. "I treated my body like a thermostat…to see if I could run up the utility bill and get the furnace, [my metabolism,] running at full blast."
You don't need to visit the North Pole to see if temperature-induced weight loss works for you-- Cronise suggests that keeping the temperature somewhere between 55 and 65 is enough to place some mild stress on your internal system and keep it working to warm you.
Lose Weight, Save Money
Other studies have corroborated the idea that exposure to more moderate temperatures can kick the body's metabolism into gear, burning calories that otherwise would get stored in fat cells. "What would it mean if we let our bodies work again to control body temperature?" Dutch researcher Dr. Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt said to Health Day about his research on the subject. Some of the studies go into the benefit of shivering, although that may go several steps beyond the comfort level the average American wants in his or her home.
If turning the thermostat down doesn't do the trick, you can take it a step further. The Atlantic recently profiled the inventor of an ice-vest, who claims that you can burn 250 calories in an hour by wearing the chilling garment.
The jury is still out on how strong the real-life effects of cold exposure are on weight loss. "We do have clear evidence that cold adaptation increases energy expenditure," van Marken Lichtenbelt said. "There is no doubt in this respect. How pronounced these effects are in everyday life, especially in the long term, is not yet known."
For consumers looking to shed a few pounds, turning down the thermostat is worth a shot. Even if the weight-loss program doesn't work out, the worst thing that could happen is you save a few dollars on your heating bills.