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Good Question: Are There Health Benefits To The Cold?

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Struggling to get your body temperature above zero is less than ideal, especially when you spend more time getting dressed for the weather than actually being in it.

But believe it or not, the cold does have some health benefits. We have the flu bug, but no other bugs to deal with, according to Dr. Christina Manders, a family physician with Fairview Clinics in Savage.

“We don’t see Lyme disease, we don’t see West Nile. So tick-borne infections, mosquito-borne infections are not a factor,” Manders said.

A recent study suggests that cold weather triggers what’s called “brown fat” in our bodies. Brown fat is thought to be healthier, and some experts feel it can help burn off the less-healthy fats.

“The thought is that you’re activating that brown fat and stimulating your metabolism and burning more calories,” she said.

Dr. Manders does think that more studies need to take place.

Another study looked at the ever-popular “polar plunge.”

It found that in order to suppress the pain of the cold, our body produces more of a chemical called “norepinephrine,” which helps to reduce pain.

“You kind of get more of a feel-good sensation,” Dr. Manders said. “A natural high, so to speak.”

But that feeling of exhilaration doesn’t mean she endorses spending more time swimming in ice water.

She also says that despite seasonal affective disorder, we do spend more time comforting each other and being closer in the winter, which can be a psychological health benefit.

“When the weather is colder, people turn to each other for solace and comfort and support,” she said. “And people have longer conversations and closer personal relationships when it’s cold.”

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