How sitting in a cold office really is terrible for your waistline

EVER wondered why you’ve gained weight despite doing everything “right”?

It could be because your office is too cold, scientists have claimed.

Professor Kenneth McLeod and colleagues at State University of New York have found that being in a cool environment for a long period of time can cause weight gain.

In a nutshell, it slows down metabolism, which drives how many calories a person burns.

As Brits and Americans slowly ease back into the office after months of working from home, Prof McLeod suggested wrapping up warm.

He wrote for the Conversation: “If you're gaining weight and aren't sure why, check the thermostat where you live or work.

“Most offices tend to be kept near 70°F (21.1°C). That's why so many of your co-workers are complaining of being cold, wearing sweaters or jackets, or using a space heater.

“This tends to be too cold for most women – and many men – who sit at a desk all day. But it's more than uncomfortable; it's not healthy.”

He said a healthy room temperature is when you are not hot or cold, which is between 72°F and 81°F (22.2°C and 27.2°C).

Anything lower than this could cause the core body temperature to drop, when it should be at a stable level of around 97°F to 101°F (36°C to 38°C). 

If the core body temperature remains too low over long periods, it leads to a lower metabolic rate.

Metabolic rate is how quickly an individual burns calories.

It includes when you are doing nothing at all while sitting at a desk, breathing, digesting food and even thinking.

When body temperature increases, so does the metabolic rate, and more calories are burned through daily functioning. 

Prof McLeod, the director of the Clinical Science and Engineering Research Laboratory, said: “For every 1-degree drop in body temperature, our metabolic rate can decrease by more than seven per cent. 

“This means that the resting metabolic rate for someone at a body temperature of 101°F (38.3 °C, the high end of normal) is up to 30 per cent higher than if their temperature were 97°F (36.1°C, the low end).”

He explained that when the body temperature goes up by four degrees, it can burn more calories over the course of one day than a workout.

“This is why changing your physical environment can substantially alter the way your body works – and impacts both health and fitness,” Prof McLeod warned.

Research in England has previously proven that people who live in chilly homes were more likely to be fat.

The body max index (BMI) of 100,100 adults was recorded as well as the air temperatures of homes.

Those who lived in homes 23°C or warmer were skinnier than those living in a home 19°C or lower across both the summer and winter months.

This was even after taking into consideration people’s age, social class and health conditions. 

Dr Michael Daly, an associate professor in psychology and behavioural science, described how the energy balance tips in favour when the temperature is warm; people have a smaller appetite while their body also burns more calories.

Doesn’t being cold burn fat?

Typically people assume that being cold helps to keep your weight down.

The body has a way of burning fat cells to generate heat – an evolutionary process that came in handy during ice ages.

Therefore, some experts say that being so cold you are shivering is actually beneficial for weight.

One study by Dutch researchers found that a chilly room can help you burn four to six per cent more calories in a day. 

However, this may not translate to real weight benefits – the study didn’t take into consideration that people can eat more food when they are cold.

Lots of factors influence how many calories you burn.

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