In winter, do you find yourself adding layer after layer to keep warm, only to meet a friend who’s wearing just a T-shirt? Well, there’s a scientific reason why some people feel the cold more than others – and it’s not necessarily to do with body fat.
While you might assume that those with extra hair or padding will keep warmer out in the elements, the scientific explanation is more involved.
It turns out that while body fat does play a part in insulation, it’s actually body size that is responsible for how quickly you feel the cold.
Imagine jumping into the ocean on a freezing day. You might feel the cold straight away but your body can prevent a drop in core temperature for a little over an hour. The larger your body, the longer it takes for your core temperature to drop.
So, your bigger, taller friend really does have an advantage. This also explains why women, who tend to be smaller, feel the cold more than men.
There are other factors that contribute to why some feel the chill more quickly. Ollie Jay, researcher of physiology at the University of Sydney says, “The main reason that we feel cold in the first place is due to receptors that are sensitive to cold, [which] are in the skin”.
“It will depend on what parts of the body are exposed to the cold, but there are also other things that determine if people physically cool quicker,” he says.
Your shape, size, age, gender and environment all influence your ability to retain body heat. A study published by the Australian Academic Press found that cold hands and feet was a highly heritable phenotype and is more prevalent in women that in men.
Researchers have also concluded that if you’re healthy but tend to get cold easily, it’s probably because you’re too used to using external devices (heaters, insulating clothing) to keep warm, instead of allowing your metabolism to do its job. If this sounds like you, you can train your body to keep itself warmer by turning down the thermostat, exercising more and relying on fewer layers to warm up.
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