Seven scientifically proven ways to keep warm this winter

Lily Holbrook shares some top scientific tips for keeping warm this winter

Lily Holbrook
1st December 2020
If you're anything like me with freezing fingers as soon as they're exposed to the cold, you'll know that we're heading into the chillier months. As Christmas approaches and we head into winter in the North East, it's time to take a look at the best ways to keep warm, according to science...

Heat loss happens primarily as a result of two processes: conduction and convection. Conduction occurs when your body comes into direct contact with a cold surface, while convection describes the loss of heat from your body as the wind carries it away. The key to staying warm is to keep these processes to a minimum.

In addition to convection and conduction, your body also radiates heat, which is where the well-known myth of losing the most heat from your head comes from. While your head does radiate heat and wearing a hat is a good idea, wrapping up the rest of your body is equally as important.

In a bid to keep bills down, students regularly suffer from the cold. Taking inspiration from the science, here are 7 (cost-effective) tips for keeping yourself warm this winter:

1. The more time you spend in the cold, the more able you are to deal with it

It may seem counterintuitive, but if you spend a lot of time in the cold, your body has ways of adjusting. By producing more brown fat which generates heat as it consumes calories, body temperature can be regulated. Being at uni in the North East, we can probably count ourselves pretty lucky to have good exposure to the cold!

2. Keep well-fuelled and hydrated

With Christmas just around the corner, it's no secret that food often forms a big part of this festive tradition. Eating well is an important element of staying warm by providing the energy we need to stave off the cold, giving us the fuel we need to function. With this in mind, don't feel too guilty if you go a bit overboard with the mince pies and chocolate!

Top tip: Spices like ginger can help raise our metabolism to keep us warm. Ginger beer, ginger cake and ginger tea are all perfect options when you need that extra boost.

3. Dress for the weather

By insulating our bodies properly, we have a much better chance of staying warm. Wear lots of layers to trap the heat, check the weather regularly so you don't get caught out, and always have those blankets, hot drinks and calorie-dense foods on standby. Taking off your coat when you get inside also helps bring down your average skin temperature, meaning more heat is diverted to the core of the body and away from the skin's surface. This helps retain warmth when you go back outside.

4. Exercise, but not too much

Exercise can be a great way to get the blood circulating to warm you up. Be careful though; the sweatier you get, the more quickly heat is evaporated from your skin. This cools your body down, potentially making you feel colder than before.

5. Be mindful of the mulled wine

While a warm beverage can seem like the perfect way to warm up after being out in the cold, alcohol lowers core body temperature. For instant warmth, try a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate and save the spirits for later.

6. Be aware of your body

Some of us are more prone to the cold than others, and it's true that there are a lot of factors that determine how much we feel the cold. Certain medications (such as alpha and beta blockers), conditions (like Raynaud's syndrome) and deficiencies (iron), can make our extremities extra sensitive to the surroundings.

7. Imagine you're warm

Strange as it sounds, research has shown that people watching videos of actors in cold settings reported being colder than seeing those in warm environments. This highlights a psychological basis for temperature perception, in a phenomenon known as 'cold contagion.' So, next time you're cold, why not try a summery film or fake fireplace to get yourself feeling toasty again?

Featured Image: Alisa Anton on Unsplash

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AUTHOR: Lily Holbrook
MA Media & Journalism student and science sub-editor for the 20/21 academic year.

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