Total Shape is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission. Learn more.

Does Cold Winter Weather Help Burn Fat?
Everything You Should Know

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: July 7, 2021

Winter is one of the seasons that many people dread due to its cold winds, hailstorm blizzards, and a ton of snow that clogs up roads and walkways.

However, there’s also an upside to cold weather that you may not know about: it helps you burn fat.

If you’re struggling to burn more calories and looking for some tips, here’s our research-based advice on how you can shiver your way to weight loss results.

How Do You Lose Body Fat in the Winter Weather?

In the winter weather, you can burn fat through exposure to the cold.

When we’re cold, our body undergoes certain processes in order to maintain a constant body temperature. According to researchers, “Prolonged exposure to mild cold also resulted in significant changes in metabolic hormones such as leptin and adiponectin [1].“

 

- Carol Torgan, Ph.D

These processes have been shown to burn extra calories to use as body heat, which can help lose weight.

Shivering

Shivering woman covered in snow

Shivering is an involuntary response to the cold where our muscles undergo states of contraction and expansion.

As shivering results in constant motion, this process generates heat which increases our body temperature.

Additionally, it may be interesting to note that our bodies are actually shedding fat as we tremble against our will.

The act of shivering itself has been shown to burn fat cells, but only in small amounts.

Eventually, the body is able to acclimate to the cold, which results in diminishing shivers as time goes on.

Thermogenesis

Woman cutting her excess body fats

Thermogenesis is the body’s natural process of heat production and where most winter weather weight loss results come from.

To understand how it helps us lose weight, we need to examine two types of fat: white and brown.

White fat consists of ordinary body fat that we’re accustomed to. White fat makes up 90% of our body fat and comes from the calories that we ingest.

Any extra calories we eat end up being stored in our fat cells as white fat.

On the other hand, brown fat, also known as brown adipose tissues, is a special type of fat that gets activated when we are cold.

You can think of brown fat as an in-built heater for our bodies, utilizing body fat as fuel.

Brown fat is often found in babies at birth, which we commonly refer to as baby fat. Due to the abundance of brown fat, infants rarely shiver despite the weather conditions around them.

As they grow up, however, their brown fat deposits diminish, resulting in shivers as a response to the cold.

Additionally, cold weather encourages the production of brown fat by stimulating the conversion of white fat into brown fat.

When our bodies detect cold temperatures, they release a hormone known as norepinephrine. This hormone activates our brown fat tissues, which triggers the fat-burning process.

As the activity of our fat cells increases, so does the body’s resting metabolic rate. This results in the burning of calories simply by standing in the cold.

Exercising In Cold Weather

Cheerful woman exercising

If you’re looking to lose weight, exercising in the cold is one of the best ways to achieve your goals.

As your body needs to focus on keeping itself warm, working out in the cold is more efficient for burning calories compared to hot weather.

Additionally, it also gets your circulation going and helps you sweat - bodily processes that are rarer when it's cold out.

One thing to note is that winter workouts don’t have to be extreme.

Exposure to cold temperature through simple exercises like a walk or jog outdoors is more than enough to stimulate brown fat tissues and begin the fat burning process.

How Long Should You Stay In the Cold for Weight Loss Results?

Woman with glasses holding herself from cold

Existing studies suggest spending about two hours in a 65º F environment is enough to trigger thermogenic fat metabolism [2].

Note that the amount of weight one can lose from prolonged exposure to the cold varies from person to person.

Factors that affect how much weight is lost include: 

  • The severity of the cold
  • An individual’s response to the cold
  • Amount of fat accumulated

In general, the more severe the conditions are, the more weight is lost.

FAQs

Does the body burn more fat in the winter?

The body burns more fat in the winter as it needs to focus on keeping us warm.

Our body uses calories and fat for fuel through shivering and brown fat activity, which leads to greater weight loss results.

Embrace the Cold and Burn More Calories Todaya

It turns out jogging in the snow isn’t as crazy as you’d think.

Exposing yourself to the cold and engaging in physical activity stimulates our brown fat tissues to keep us warm.

This process results in extra calories and white fat being burnt, which can help you to shed pounds and slim down.

Let us know how well you exercise in the cold.


References:

  1. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/cool-temperature-alters-human-fat-metabolism
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/nm.4429

About the author

You may also like

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *