Why the end of summer could be good for your calorie burn goals


Unless you are lucky enough to be sunning yourself over in Perth or up in Darwin at the moment, the last few days have bought the reality that summer is over showering down upon us in the form of heavy rain and chilly winds.

However, it’s not all bad. While you stand, shivering, waiting for the bus into work or sheltering under your umbrella and reminiscing about hot summer days, you could be burning calories without lifting a finger.

Studies have shown that when we start to shiver in response to being cold, our bodies can burn extra calories without us even realising it.

The science behind this is connected to something known as ‘brown fat’ in our bodies, which are essentially cells that burn energy to produce heat and try and keep us warm as the temperature drops.

Different from our ‘white fat’ cells which produce energy from the food we eat, ‘brown fat’ increases the colder we get and can burn calories as it works to raise our core temperature.

This in turn has a proven ability to help us lose weight – but only if you’re still eating the same amount as usual. Eating more, or eating heavier, fattier foods ‘because it’s cold’ won’t cut it if you’re hoping to drop a few pounds through shivering your way through winter alone without doing any exercise.

Research also shows that you need to be cool and shivering (but not freezing) for around two hours before your ‘brown fat’ begins to increase and the calorie burning can begin. That’s a fair while if you’re not keen on the cold in the first place.

Plus, jetting off to warmer climates to escape the cold won’t help you maintain your shiver-achieved slimness.

Barbara Cannon, a professor of biomedical sciences at Stockholm University in Sweden who has led studies into ‘brown fat’, explains, “If you develop a lot of brown fat by being in the cold, this will not help you to stay slim when you are in a warm environment.”

So while it may not be possible to literally shiver yourself slim, a little cold to generate some ‘brown fat’ for our bodies might not be a bad thing either – especially if it’s going to slightly increase our daily calorie burn totals.