What measures can be taken to keep warm – and why do they work?
A breakfast of cinnamon porridge is the ideal winter warmer.
The very foundation of keeping warm is making sure your body has enough food to burn to keep you warm in the first place. For this you’re going to need to eat complex carbohydrates – whole grains such as oats, brown rice and millet are good.
Mild spices are also a good call. Ginger, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, nutmeg and allspice all help increase metabolism and generate heat. But avoid anything too spicy – it’ll make you sweat, which loses heat.
Have you ever seen a cold sheep? There’s far more to wool than just getting that ‘Nordic’ look this winter – it will also keep you incredibly warm. It’s particularly good on a wet winter’s day because (unlike other natural materials) wool retains heat even when wet.
Wool does this because it’s made up of a complex web of fibres. And although down is actually the material with the best insulation-to-weight ratio, it doesn’t cope nearly as well when wet.
Layer your clothing
We’ve all heard about wearing layers – although some may only see it in fashion terms. Wearing at least three different layers is far more effective at keeping you warm than one thick layer.
The base layer (closest to your skin) should be thin and comfortable. Its main purpose is to ‘wick’ sweat away from your skin. Choose two-ply cotton for warmth and comfort.
The middle layer (or layers, depending on how cold it is) should focus on warmth. Lightly woven wool is a good bet. Try to wear something that zips down the front, so you have the option to unzip if you start overheating.
Finally, the outer layer should be your first line of defence against the elements – we’re talking wind-proof jackets and the like. Again, get a zip so you can stay flexible in all weathers.
Don’t forget to layer your socks too
The best way to keep feet warm is by wearing two pairs of socks that each serve a different purpose. The under layer should be a thin pair of ‘wicking’ socks. They remove perspiration from the skin to a thicker outer sock. Sweating is a cooling mechanism and can lead to cold feet.
Try rubbing your wrists
Here’s a neat little trick to keep you warm. Rubbing your wrists helps you warm up quickly because these are parts of the body know as ‘pulse points’, where the blood vessels come close to the surface of the skin. Heating this area will help heat the blood and the rest of the body.
Wear a scarf
Anyone who’s ever taken their own pulse will also know the neck is a prime location for pulse points. That’s one of the reasons scarves can be so effective at keeping you warm.
Wear a hat – but not for the reason you think
You’ve probably been told that you lose more heat from your head than any other party of your body. But if this were true you might as well just wear a hat and leave your trousers at home, right?
Any exposed part of your body loses the same amount of heat. But our heads have a relatively large surface area and are often left most exposed. So wear a hat. And wear trousers while you’re at it!
Don’t sit down
You’ll already know that if you sit on a cold bench or the frozen ground you get colder faster. This is because you start losing heat via a process called conduction, when heat transfers between a warm solid (in this case, your toasty derrière) and a cold solid (the frigid earth).
Tuck your trousers into your socks
This is to avoid something called the “chimney effect”. Dense cold air works it way into your trousers legs (or sleeves) and pushes light warm air out of other holes.
This is a particularly unwelcome form of ‘convection’ which (you might remember from school) is the transfer of heat as colder air moves past an object.