Winter is here, and red noses are aplenty. Big coats shield us from the icy cold, and boots work their hardest to keep our feet nice and warm. Still, the chill of winter wind sends a shiver through the body every time a breeze blows by just the right way. Logically speaking, it makes sense to think that between our bodies constantly working to keep us warm in the winter months, that the body would obviously burn more calories in cold weather – right?
Not exactly, but kind of.
Cold weather is not the sole deciding factor dictating whether or not our bodies go into calorie-burning mode. It’s more so the process our bodies undergo once we start shivering from a temperature drop. This process is called thermogenesis. One way of this happening is to shiver, which is when the muscles contract involuntarily in order to create warmth and help maintain a healthy body temperature.
Or, your body could go into non-shivering thermogenesis. This is where the body’s brown fat breaks down to release heat and, again, help warm the body up. Both shivering and non-shivering thermogenesis increase the body’s energy expenditure, which helps burn calories. This is why your body may burn more calories in colder weather.
However, those two energy-expending and calorie-burning processes only kick into high gear when the body is truly cold. Once exercise begins, and the body naturally warms up from it, the body isn’t going to burn any extra calories just because of the weather. But don’t use that as an excuse to not exercise this winter season, sitting around and being sedentary is no way to keep the body healthy during the chilly months.
The Caloric Burn Breakdown
- BMR: Your basic daily caloric burn, known as BMR, or basal metabolic rate. That’s how many calories your body needs just to function at rest. (~60% – ~80% total energy expenditure)
- FOOD BREAKDOWN: The energy needed to break down all that yummy food consumed throughout the day. (~10% total energy expenditure)
- EXERCISING: Lastly, the energy needed when engaging in physical activity. (~10% – ~30% total energy expenditure)
The calories burned during thermogenesis plays a substantially small role in overall expenditure, less than 5% – 10% actually.1 In one study where individuals were put in cold rooms for an entire day, subjects burned an additional 150 to 200 calories.2 That’s not ideal or healthy, and not a smart way to burn extra calories.
So, if you’re looking to burn extra calories this winter season, then up your fitness routine rather than your time freezing in the cold. And for those of you looking to take your workout season indoors, get a 5-day LA Fitness guest pass here.
- Belluz, Julia. “Do You Burn More Calories Exercising in the Cold? Here’s What the Science Says.” Vox, Vox, 6 Feb. 2018, www.vox.com/2017/12/23/16774320/exercise-in-cold-burn-more-calories.
- Praderio, Caroline. “If Your Office Is Freezing This Summer, You Might Be Burning Extra Calories.” INSIDER, INSIDER, 3 July 2018, www.thisisinsider.com/does-being-cold-burn-calories-2017-8.