Last April in the post Shivering My Way to Leanness, I discussed how I was inspired by evolutionary fitness guru Arthur De Vany to try cold weather exposure. In a nutshell, throughout thousands of years of human history, it has only been in modern times that humans have lived in perfectly controlled temperatures. As an organism, we are losing our ability to adapt to cold weather stresses.
Went to the gym this morning at 7:45 AM in my tank top and shorts. It was a bit brisk, but not cold. At least that is what I thought. When I got home I checked the weather and it read 41 degrees (5 C). I guess Ive acclimatized to the Seattle area.
The above story was a short trip to my gym by car, where I had only a few minutes of outdoor air exposure. The testing has gotten a lot more intense. On an average day, I am now spending between 1 to 2 hours outside. As temperatures gradually dropped from the summer 70s to the current mid-40s, I have remained in short-sleeved shirts. If the wind is strong, I’ll add a thin fleece on top, but that has only happened once so far this season.
My cold weather exposure tests are not to be confused with the 1985 Phil Collins release.
There are three goals of cold weather exposure.
- Protection from heart attacks and strokes. De Vany believes that cold weather exposure produces an acceptable amount of stress that can condition the body to deal with much harsher stresses in the future. He theorizes: “The adaptive capacity extends to other stresses as well and, thus, may protect you against a heart attack or a life-stressing event.”
- Getting Leaner. Is this the third path to fat loss, after diet and exercise?
- Cold Weather Comfort. How quickly can the body adapt its comfort level, aka acclimatization?
Although my testing will continue, I want to give a status report on how these goals are being met.
- No heart attacks or strokes this year. 🙂 Seriously, there is no real way to test for this. If I make it to 100 years old without having a heart attack then I’ll count this as a success.
- Too soon to tell on this one. Every year when the colder weather comes, I gain some fat. This year I haven’t, but I also haven’t gotten leaner. So the jury is still out on this one. By spring I should have a better idea of the fat-burning effects of cold weather exposure.
- Acclimatization has been an amazing success. My body has been able to adapt to cold temperatures more this year than in the 24 years I lived in Ohio. When I first walk out the door, I get the sting of cold on my exposed skin, but it goes away in minutes. I love walking around my city enjoying the cool brisk air without putting on a jacket.
While putting this post together, I discovered a 3-minute video by Art De Vany explaining how cold weather exposure accelerates the burning of body fat.
(2020: video no longer online)
Since content by Art De Vany is often moved or removed from the Internet, I’ve taken some notes from the video below.
- Infants have BAT (brown adipose tissue) to protect them from cold.
- People in cold climates retain BAT.
- BAT generates no energy that can be used for movement, it throws off pure heat.
- When De Vany hikes or rides his motorcycle, he tries to trigger a shiver response.
- De Vany also rinses his legs with cold water in the shower.
- Surfers tend to be lean because there is a tremendous heat loss in the water. They have higher amounts of BAT.
- Unlike aerobic exercise, energy from BAT produces no free radicals.
Note that when you watch the video that De Vany is 71 years old, 6’1, and weighs 195 pounds. No Jacket Required, indeed!