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Researchers believe that rising indoor temperatures in the winter may be putting adults at higher risk of obesity. It is another example of how weather affects health — though, with an unusual twist, this one is about indoor weather. It’s about the thermostat.

There are rising levels of obesity in the Western world, as we all know. Researchers decided to examine the link between less exposure to winter’s cold weather and increases in people’s weight. They did so in both the U.S. and UK. Their paper was published in the journal “Obesity Reviews.”

Always being warm indoors means people have reduced exposure to cold. While that seems optimal, it actually may exert effects on one’s ability to maintain a healthy weight. First, it minimizes the need for energy expenditure to stay warm. Second, it reduces the body’s capacity to produce heat.

The new study looked at all evidence that addressed higher winter indoor temperatures to see if less exposure to cold weather did impact energy balance and body weight.

Winter indoor temperatures have risen over the last few decades. That includes higher temperatures in domestic settings. The higher expectations we have of heat-related comfort means that seasonal cold exposure is going down. And we spend more time exposed to milder temperatures.

The study centers around brown fat in our bodies. Brown fat differs from white fat in that it has the capacity to burn energy to create heat. Its development in the body is thought to be triggered by exposure to cold temperatures. Recent studies show that more time spent in warm conditions can lead to a loss of brown fat. And, thus, less ability to burn energy.

So far, research into non-genetic causes of obesity revolves around diet and exercise. That is expected, soft play equipment suppliers of course. Yet it is possible that other environmental factors, such as winter indoor temperatures, may also have a contributing role. Are central heating, more time spent indoors, and our need for warmer comfort actually making us fatter?

This will need further examination, but for the moment perhaps attuning the body to lower indoor temperatures could help your body better burn energy. An easy fix? Go outside for a walk every day and turn down your thermostat a little bit.

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