Cold Weather's Coming: Is Your Body Ready?


Emerging research suggests that groups of people who have lived for generations in very cold places may also develop stockier bodies with less surface area for losing heat as well as other adaptations that come from either genetic changes or through repeated exposure to cold starting as early as in the womb.

When it comes to sudden spells of very hot weather, most people quickly regulate how much they sweat. But even with the physiological adaptions that come from living in cold places, people still need to rely on clothes, shelter and nutrition to survive.

"Acclimation to cold is very, very modest compared to heat and high altitude," Sawka said. "We are basically warm-weather animals.”

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Given the relatively short nature of his upcoming expedition and the extremely brief time he spent in the cold chamber, Prince Harry is unlikely to benefit from any long-term adaptations to cold, though he’ll likely begin to habituate after spending time in Antarctica.

Meanwhile, for people currently on the cusp of a changing season, there might be some wisdom to glean from research on people who live through the coldest of cold.

In his work with native populations in Siberia and Alaska, Snodgrass noticed that residents tend to focus on relationships with friends and family during the long, cold months. Come summertime, they live it up.

"It's amazing what people do during the three months of summer -- like 22 hours of activity a day," Snodgrass said. "Then they're almost psychologically hibernating for the winter. They emphasize what's good. That's how a lot of people make sense of it."

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