Lower the Thermostat to Lower 60s, Lose Weight!


Photo: Flickr/C Jill Reed

Super-sized meals and sedentary living don't seem to be the only contributing fat-factors present in American and UK lifestyles. New research published in the journal Obesity Reviews points to a link in increasing average indoor temperatures over the last several decades-- and similarly rising rates of obesity. Frankly put by TIME:

Keeping your house too balmy may be making you fat.

Fellow 'Hugger, if more motivation is needed to lower your toasty indoor temp -- beyond fighting climate change -- here it is!

While I was unable to click through to the actual study (wonky link?), I did gather bits and pieces from TIME and The New York Times. The science corroborates what those of us living in colder climes viscerally experience every time we step foot outside: the body-clenching shiver. When we do this we naturally expend energy (i.e., calories).

Cool the Room for Cooler Planet and Calorie Burn

The average temperature in British living rooms went from 64.9 degrees F to 70.3 degrees F, from 1978 to 2008. -TIME

What the study finds is that with increasing numbers of U.S. and U.K. residents staying indoors, couch-surfing, snacking, and cranking the heat -- instead of layering on a sweater -- the body isn't experiencing the mild thermal stress (shivering not required) needed to ignite calorie-burn activity.

Those headlong in their New Year, weight loss resolution -- and ready to shed more pounds -- don't need to barrel out in the snow sans scarf and mittens to start burning fat. (Though we know more time outdoors is always good for health and spirit!) According to the NYT, Dr. C. Ronald Kahn, a Harvard Medical School professor thinks simply lowering the thermostat to the lower 60s,

...Might actually help with weight control over time, provided people stick with it.

When we put people in a 60-degree room, they increase their energy expenditure by 100 or 200 calories a day if they're in light clothing," like hospital scrubs, he said. "They're not shivering. They activate their brown fat."

Over a period of several weeks, they will have burned an extra 3,500 calories, which translates into the loss of one pound. Wearing a sweater will dilute the effect.

The problem, Dr. Kahn said, is that "most people won't stay at that temperature for very long.

I have to agree with Dr. Kahn. For many (including myself) lowering the heat to the low 60s in light clothing isn't practical unless you're a proud member of the polar bear club. But the over-arching message seems clear: it beneficial in more ways than one to lower the heat when possible!

More Green Ways to Lose Weight Naturally:
Seven Ways to Eat Green (and Inadvertently Lose Weight)
Save Energy, Save the Planet, Lose Weight = Eat Less Meat & Junk Food
Losing Weight = Toxic?

Tags: Diet | Energy | Global Climate Change | Heating | Winter