The Surprising Health Benefits of a Saskatchewan Winter!

Do you feel the winter is best viewed from the inside? Well, it’s time to pull yourself from your hygge hiding spot, put down the fleece blankets, and reap the benefits of living in chilly Saskatchewan! Your body derives several benefits from cold weather, and in this blog, we will talk about the benefits of cold weather and cold exposure.

The many health benefits of a cold Saskatchewan winter!

We understand this may not be the sentence you hoped to read, but it is accurate! While there are concerns about frostbite, hypothermia, and having to scrape your windshield in the dark, there are ways that responsibly enjoying the cold weather benefits you.

There’s a lot of great science about the benefits of deliberate cold exposure, which you can slowly and safely try by ending your shower with a slightly uncomfortable but still safe colder temperature or taking advantage of the cooler months in the most Canadian way possible. Remember, it takes your body about two weeks to adapt to cooler temperatures, so be patient while you try new outdoor activities!

Here are some benefits of adding a little shiver to your day and learning to enjoy winter!

Clearer thoughts can help you tackle complex tasks

Cooler temperatures allow your brain to focus more intently on complex tasks. Do you notice that you read more in the winter? Not only is your brain getting a better share of the glucose in your body, but deliberate cold exposure produces dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine which helps you feel focused and motivated.

While cooler temperatures provide clarity of mind, extreme temperatures in either direction can place significant strain on your body systems. Always make sure to enjoy the outdoors responsibly by dressing appropriately in layers. Remember to enjoy the cold in ways that feel safe and enjoyable for you!

Cold weather can help burn calories

A walk after dinner or trying a new winter activity like skiing or snowshoeing are great ways to feel refreshed by the weather! Physical activity helps regulate our body temperature while we play by burning additional fuel –– a process called thermogenesis. If you’re looking for ways to maximize your exercise goals, try doing a new activity outdoors, such as hiking, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or running.

Remember to dress for the temperature with moisture-wicking base layers (such as merino wool) to prevent rapid cooling due to sweat––which can contribute to hypothermia or chill. In addition, a neck warmer or balaclava can reduce the amount of cold air entering your nose and mouth, which can help prevent irritation and illness while you become more acclimated to cold exposure.

Boost insulin sensitivity with cold exposure

For diabetics and non-diabetics, insulin sensitivity is an important topic. Colder temperatures can activate thermogenesis, which burns brown adipose tissue (brown fat). This process increases the rate and efficiency of glucose processing in the body. This benefits every kind of body, but it can be particularly beneficial for those with diabetes or those at an increased risk of developing diabetes. Always talk to your family doctor about incorporating more outdoor time into your daily routine if you have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes.

Help your immune system become more adaptable

Cold weather increases the productivity of our immune system by raising the levels of epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) in our body. These hormones help us stay warm, feel focused, burn fatty tissue, and fight infections. However, acclimatizing your body to the colder temperature is essential –– especially if you have any pre-existing conditions like heart disease. Start with low-level exercise outdoors and keep your core warm with a down, fur, wool sweater, or vest under your jacket. You can also learn about breathing techniques like Wim Hoff breathing, which can positively affect your stress levels and improve immune function.

The primary source of transmission of bacteria and viruses over the winter months is indoor gatherings with poor air ventilation. While the flu virus can thrive in cold and dry environments (around 5℃), the cold itself does not cause you to get a cold or flu. Outdoor play decreases the risk of exposure and helps acclimate our bodies to the environment, positively affecting our overall health. Always ensure that younger children are bundled up appropriately and come inside to warm up.

Give yourself a smile

It may not feel like it, but cold exposure causes your body to slow-release dopamine –– the hormone that boosts your mood and helps you focus. Try standing outside in the morning in the direct sunshine (even if it’s on your work break) for just a few minutes to get the maximum benefits of sunshine and dopamine production. If you feel safe (and brave), try to allow as much sunshine on your skin as possible, wearing a t-shirt or even just taking off your toque and gloves.

With a sense of adventure, you can make the most of a prairie winter wonderland!

When you set your mind to enjoying the winter, amazing things can happen! Always start small and work towards outdoor activities instead of signing yourself up for a polar bear dive. The sparkling and soft wonderland of prairie snow can soon become a beneficial oasis that we have the pleasure of enjoying every year!