“Does your husband know about this?” a neighbor recently chided me when he spotted me in short sleeves outside on a brisk 30-something degree day. We often walk our dogs together, so I had already told him about my plan to adapt to the cold this winter on numerous occasions, but somehow he still wasn’t buying it.
I can understand why. Ever since we were little, our parents and others have been warning us “Bundle up. You’re going to catch your death of cold!” or “You’re going to freeze to death!” But it may be that children have understood intuitively what we as adults have forgotten—that our bodies were made to brave the elements.
When my kids were little, all they wanted to do on a snow day was get out in it. There was a flurry of preparations—breakfast gulped down, boots, mittens, jackets zipped—and then out the door they flew. My instinct was to stay inside, but theirs was the polar opposite. They didn’t care how red their noses would get. They just wanted to play, make snow angels, sled, and build forts. Most of the time they would unzip their jackets and fling off their scarves. Playing kept them busy, oblivious to the cold. And the exposure to the elements felt risky and gave them a surge of joy at being alive.
I’m on a mission right now to reconnect with that child-like playful instinct when it comes to enduring the cold. It’s a funny position for me to be in, because I’ve always been one to bundle up to avoid the discomfort of a dip in the temperature. But recently I’ve had a change of heart.
As a podcaster and health coach, I’ve interviewed a number of experts who have mentioned the benefits of allowing our bodies to experience the ambient temperature. It forces the body to work, strengthening it on multiple levels. We’ve gotten kind of soft—in the winter, we often go from our 72° homes to our cars with heated seats to our warm offices. In the summer, in a similar manner, air conditioning does the work of cooling our bodies wherever we are. Our bodies are rarely pushed to sustain our core temperature.
So, I am embracing cold adaptation in order to surprise and strengthen my body in new ways. It’s my fitness regimen that includes strength training and conditioning. It’s not always pleasant in the moment, but I lift weights, do pushups, and more, in order to challenge my muscles, my core, my mind, and spirit to become tougher, adapt to challenges, and become more resilient. Exposure to the cold (and heat, as well) ultimately does the same thing, even if it feels uncomfortable in the short-term.
Here are some benefits you’ll enjoy if you catch cold this winter (notice I say “catch cold” and not “catch a cold”, by the way):
sharper focus and brain function
extend your lifespan
Today, I was out and about in short sleeves and no hat for 25 minutes at 35 degrees. My body is adapting and getting stronger! This is surprising, even to me, since I used to be the girl who would ask my husband to drop me off right in front of our destination to avoid walking from a parking spot a few steps away! I am COLD ADAPTING. And my body is getting all the benefits thereof!
Learn more by listening to the Wise Traditions podcast episode “Biohacking our health” with Thaddeus Owen! He was one of the guests who inspired me to try this new way of building my immunity and strengthening my body. And do comment if you’re up for the challenge of catching cold this winter! Your body will thank you (even if your friends and family think you’re crazy)!
Hilda Labrada Gore is a certified health coach and fitness professional. She is the DC Metro Regional Director for Body & Soul Fitness. She is a podcasting consultant and the author of “Podcasting Made Simple.” She is also the host and producer of the Wise Traditions podcast, on behalf of the Weston A. Price Foundation. She and her husband live in DC with their children and cat and dog. Hilda has energy to spare thanks to her ancestral health practices and diet.