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People used to tolerate a much wider range of temperatures. What techniques can I apply to widen my body's range of comfort?

A few examples that may or may not help:

  • Spend a lot of time slightly chilled.
  • Spend a short amount of time as cold as I can stand.
  • When I'm home, keep the heat down low.
  • Do Qi'gong to guide the Earth's energy to warm my hands.
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What degree ranges are you talking about? –  RoflcoptrException Jan 24 '12 at 21:55
    
@Roflcoptr: Not sure; would that affect the answer? Doesn't any improvement to cold tolerance help in any range of cold? –  Jay Bazuzi Jan 24 '12 at 21:57
    
I'm also not sure, but I think for 0 degree not a lot of effort is necessary, but for -20 degree a little bit more effort would be necessary probably. –  RoflcoptrException Jan 24 '12 at 22:00
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@Roflcoptr: I'm assuming it's just a matter of degree ha ha. The same techniques, just applied more. Let's see if the answers say otherwise. –  Jay Bazuzi Jan 24 '12 at 22:20
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Move to Minnesota –  whatsisname Jan 19 '13 at 17:16

4 Answers 4

Probably the best thing you can do to acclimate to the cold is to live in it.

Yeah, you can say that sounds simple and it may be hard to do, but it's the best way. I live in an area that gets fairly cold in the winter (as much as -40C/F), and I'm used to it. I don't think 27F is cold at all. Many of your suggestions are along this line of thinking, but they are not full time. When you actually live in a cold zone, you may have a hard time adjusting, but you do... eventually, hence why you would want to live in it.

Some other suggestions:

  • eat lots of calories, this will help you to stay warm
  • sleep outside when you are at home. This helps your body to get used to functioning in cold weather, even when you are asleep. Maybe in the fall, where it gets progressively colder (in locations further north and south of the equator), sleep outside frequently, and your body will adjust to the gradually colder temperatures.
  • You also may want to try taking cold showers. Or go from cold to hot and back again suddenly, this also has health benefits.
  • exercise outside, regardless of season or temperature. Even if it is for a short time, this is a good way to get/stay fit and spend time outside.
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This is true. Coming out of winter in Iowa, I would be wearing shorts when it hit 40 degrees. Since living in Southern California for over a year, I get cold when it's in the 60s. –  Timothy Strimple Jan 24 '12 at 23:53
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+1 for cold showers - you don't even notice after a while, it just becomes nice and refreshing! –  berry120 Jan 24 '12 at 23:55
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Something else I'd suggest would be to not wear a coat when it's only needed for comfort, not survival. ex walking from your car to your house/a store when it's only slightly below freezing. You're not at risk for frostbite/hypothermia from the few minutes it takes to walk across a large parking lot at that temperature. However if you do this regularly you should add a coat to your cars emergency supply kit (if you don't already have one in it). –  Dan Neely Feb 9 '12 at 16:30
    
@DanNeely a good point - one that I do all the time myself, but failed to remember/add :) It actually works... –  studiohack Feb 9 '12 at 16:32
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@dolan agreed. Among other things, my in car emergency kit includes a pair of sweat pants large enough to pull on over whatever else I'm wearing, a coat, gloves, a summer weight sleeping bag, and a winter weight one. –  Dan Neely Mar 7 at 21:22

I am not sure why you want to do this, but I have noticed that in a group of people in cool (not cold) weather eg 5 C which is 41 F, those who live in places with a very cold winter (rural Ontario like me, Winnipeg) are not even zipping up their coats while those who live in year-round warm places (Texas) are shivering and complaining and borrowing gloves.

My theories about why that is:

  • base clothing is warmer. Sure, we're all just wearing pants, shirts, shoes, and light jackets, but the Texan's shoes are thinner soled, his jacket is lighter, etc.
  • those of us with cold experience are used to feeling a little cool and know it's not dangerous (unlike truly cold which is dangerous)
  • we have some habits we might not even notice about the way we're walking or standing that keep us warmer by using muscle energy, or reduce the heat we're losing to the air
  • our sympathetic nervous system is opening channels that the Texan's is closing, so we're pumping blood to our fingers and keeping them warm while his is throwing the fingers under the bus. US Soldiers apparently do learn some biofeedback thing to achieve this effect

I recommend acclimatizing to cool, not cold. Cold will kill you. Down to freezing is cool. I guess cold starts about -10C which is 14F. If you have access to cool, try just spending time in it wearing a little less clothing than you normally would. Leave off your hat or gloves or scarf. Don't zip up the coat. Wear the light jacket instead of the coat. Do this for short times - you won't die getting cold walking to get the mail in inside clothing when it's above freezing out. At 0C I will leave my coat in the car to go to the grocery store because it's annoying to wear with or deal with a large coat while shopping. And sure, I feel cold while I'm going through the parking lot. I just don't mind that much.

Figure out how to wave your arms around to drive more blood to your fingers, and how to jump up and down to drive more blood to your toes. If you're new to living somewhere where it gets cool and cold, watch what other people do at places like bus stops where you have to wait outside. (Even with full on hats gloves scarves etc, people get cold when they have to stand still. Watch how they deal with it.) Change the way you walk to make yourself warmer. And yes, learn to ignore the fact that you feel a little cool. Never ignore feeling chilled or cold - shivering is a big danger sign. I don't leave my coat behind at -10C. That would just be stupid. But cool? Lift up your chin. Tell yourself it's "bracing". Imagine a little glow in your cheeks and a sparkle in your eye. Look forward to hot chocolate. Think about skating, tobogganning, skiing, and all the other things that are fun to do outside and involve getting a little cold. Walk faster. Don't let it beat you. Then get into the warm house and really enjoy that warmth.

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You could do worse than to research Wim Hof, his accomplishments, and his training methods.

TEDx Amsterdam video

YouTube channel

Daredevils show featuring Wim Hof

Have fun. :o)

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That is interesting. It would be interesting to learn how he trained himself to do this. –  theJollySin Jan 25 '13 at 18:41
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@theJollySin If you watch the "Daredevils" video you'll see that he sits is very cold water (for about 45 minutes if I recall) as a conditioning method, not just a stunt. He's apparently being doing this for years. He'll slip out at night to soak for a while in the cold river near his house, etc. Sounds miserable to me but apparently it, among other things, has conditioned body and mind in an unusual way. I'll look for some other references to his training a bit later. –  Mr.Wizard Jan 25 '13 at 19:25

Acclimatization isn't purely psychological; it is actually a physiologically different response based upon recent exposure and experience. Layering down over a period of time (days to weeks) could theoretically alter your biochemistry on a cellular level as you develop a different proportion of membrane proteins and salinity (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acclimatization).

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