New research suggests standing outside in the cold for 10 to 15 minutes can have the same fat-burning effects as an hour of exercise.
Dr Paul Lee, an endocrinologist at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney who wrote the study, discovered the weight-loss benefits of shivering after delving into previous research on so-called brown fat. Unlike white fat, which stores energy, brown fat burns it – 50 grams of which can burn 300 calories.
The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, aimed to explore how this brown fat burning process could take place without the need to hit the gym or go for a run. Researchers discovered exposure to cold temperatures was a trigger for brown fat activation, as shivering stimulates hormones that are associated with brown fat calorie burning. Up to fifteen minutes is the time that it took for shivering to yield the same increase of hormone production as one hour of moderate exercise.
As well as highlighting a potential weight-loss method, Dr Lee’s findings add to current knowledge of the body’s own heating mechanism:
“When we are cold, we first activate our brown fat because it burns energy and releases heat to protect us,” Dr Lee said. “When that energy is insufficient, muscle contracts mechanically, or shivers, thereby generating heat. However, we did not know how muscle and fat communicate in this process.”
Lowering the body’s thermostat to help burn excess fat continuously throughout the day has been proven effective in a number of studies, including one published earlier this year by Maastricht University, Netherlands.
Ultimately it is thought national health would greatly benefit if indoor temperatures were lowered. This would also help to tackle the growing obesity rates.
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