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If you're trying to lose weight before your wedding, say hello to your new best friend: the Polar Vortex.
That's because a recent study published in a scientific journal has found that cooler temperatures—in the home and at the office—might actually help people burn more calories each day.
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In the study, Dr. Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt, an associate professor in the department of human biology at Maastricht University Medical Center, and his team studied whether exposure to mild cold temperatures would cause people's bodies to expend more energy—and therefore burn more calories—to stay warm.
The key is mild cold temperatures. (Okay, so no polar vortex.) Dangerously cold temperatures cause the body to shiver to prevent hypothermia, where body temperature falls so low you could die. Mild cold, on the other hand, causes the body to do something called non-shivering thermogenesis (NST) to produce heat. This causes the body to burn calories to heat itself up but doesn't put a person at risk of serious harm.
According to the report, NST in young and middle-aged people increased by as much as 30 percent in response to mild cold temperatures, which could mean some major calorie burning. Prior research from the Dutch team showed that people who spent six hours a day at 59 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 days got comfortable with the lower temperature, so it could be a strategy that's both acceptable and effective (not to mention easier on your heating bill!).
Other studies have shown similar results: One Japanese study found that people experienced a decrease in body fat after spending two hours a day for six weeks at 63 degrees Fahrenheit.
But don't rely on your chilly office to get svelte for the big day. So far, it's just a theory, and it's unknown how well it would work in real life. Brides who are really serious about dropping pounds should keep working out and watching their diets.
The researchers are planning long-term experiments that involve having people live in cooler environments while tracking their weight over time, though, so stay tuned. In the meantime, lowering the thermostat a couple of degrees probably couldn't hurt!