Can the cold help you lose weight?

Keeping your thermostat low might help you burn fat

Published: January 2014

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The cold snap gripping much of the nation might have an unexpected health benefit: weight loss. Cold indoor temperatures may rev up your metabolism so you burn more calories.

Researchers say that mildly cold indoor air appears to activate the body's stores of brown fat, which, unlike most fat, burns lots of calories. Spending two hours a day at a brisk 63º F for 6 weeks increased brown fat activity and resulted in a significant decrease in body fat among 51 healthy men, researchers in Japan recently reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

If you need to lose weight, try diet and exercise, say the experts at Consumer Reports.

And Dutch investigators, in a separate study, say their research suggests that daily exposure to a more balmy 66º F might also activate brown fat. Such mildly cold indoor temperatures might help middle-aged people in their weight-loss efforts by boosting their metabolism up to 30 percent, the team reported in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. But they warn that the cold temperatures might have the opposite effect on young people and seniors because they tend to have reduced metabolism when cold.

If burning calories by turning down your thermostat doesn't appeal to you, consider an indoor exercise machine. Read our reviews of treadmills, ellipticals, spin bikes, rowing machines, and activity trackers such as the Fitbit One.

—Doug Podolsky

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