Have you ever wondered why your hands always get cold? It may be because you need more muscle mass. A study published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology revealed that muscle mass maintains heat temperature in the hands when exposed to extremely cold temperatures.
“Hands have a large surface area-to-volume ratio, which can be a challenge to maintaining thermal balance in cold conditions,” said Stephanie Payne, lead author of the study, according to a report by Science Daily.
The study was carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Cambridge who examined the impact of body size and composition on heat loss and rewarming in the hands during extreme cold exposure. One hundred fourteen participants, who were of European origin and were 18 to 50 years old, took part in the study. The research team took the participants’ vital statistics and body composition in order to measure their body fat and muscle. After this, each participant immersed their hands into ice cold water for three minutes. Then, the team measured and recorded the rate at which participants’ hands warmed up again with the use of a thermal imaging camera.
Results showed that muscle mass can serve as a predictor of the rate of heat loss from the hands when exposed to extremely cold conditions as it possesses thermogenic properties that support the maintenance of hand temperature in severe cold exposures, in contrast to body mass, stature, and fat mass. In addition, body composition and body size only had little to no significant influence on the regulation of hand temperature.
“We always thought that fat (acting as insulation) was the most crucial factor in thermoregulation, but it’s actually muscle playing the vital role,” Payne explained. “The body is this amazing, dynamic system which uses muscle to generate heat to keep the rest of the body warm, including your hands.”
The findings of the study indicated that people who have more muscle mass are more resistant to heat loss and cold injury in comparison to those who have less muscle mass. The researchers also believe that their study is essential for understanding thermoregulation, the ability of the body to regulate its temperature.
Ways to keep the hands and feet warm
During winter, the hands and feet typically get cold because the body prioritizes keeping the vital organs, such as the heart and lungs, warm, according to an article published in Reader’s Digest. Moreover, the hands and feet as well as the ears have more thermoregulatory receptors than any other parts of the body. This means that they direct blood flow away from the hands and feet and toward the core of the body. Here are some tips on how to keep your hands and feet warm:
- Eat foods that support the heart – Heart-healthy foods, such as fatty fish, nuts, olive oil, and fruits and vegetables, improves circulation, which is important for proper blood flow and temperature regulation.
- Wear the proper kind of gloves – Choose bunting or fleece gloves when you are in cold temperatures instead of lighter polypropylene or Capilene gloves to keep your hands warm.
- Try warming gadgets – At home, you could use a space heater or sit in front of your fireplace. When going outdoors, you can use portable hand warmer packs to warm up your hands and a comfortable heated insole to keep your feet warm. (Related: Warm Your Hands With Biofeedback, Heal Your Whole Body.)
- Add some spice to your food and drinks – Spices, such as black pepper, cinnamon, cayenne, cardamom, ginger, horseradish, and garlic are some spices that can help increase body temperature.
- Get moving – Exercise boosts blood flow, which results in increased body temperature. Swinging each arm in a circle is one exercise that can help warm your hands.
If you’d like to read more news stories and studies about the body, go to MindBodyScience.news.