How do humans actually physically acclimate to living in different temperatures/climates and what changes in the body?


Does the human body adapt physically to certain climates and if so, how? For example, Florida had “dangerous windchills” of low 30’s recently at the same time Minnesota had a “warm weekend” with temps in the low 30’s. What physical differences actually occur when you live in a certain climate a long time, or is it all mental?

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6 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

I have also wondered this. And while I can’t exactly explain the general acclamation to a climate, but I think I understand the basics and have a theory. (I am not an expert, so the following is just my understanding.)

Our bodies regulate temperature largely through our skin’s pores. They open and let sweat out to cool us (via evaporative cooling), and they close to prevent cooling (aka retain heat).

This effect is most noticeable when we get into cold water. After a few seconds to a minute, we start to “get used to” the water temperature. What’s happening is that our skin’s pores close up, and the blood flow is drawn away from the surface of the skin to some degree. This limits the cooling effects of the water on our circulatory system since our blood is further away from the cold water.

Another place/situation where you can feel this effect (in the opposite direction) is if you ever have the chance to go into a sauna in the cold weather. Once in the hot sauna (often over 160º F), you can literally feel your skin start to open up and eventually sweat will flow. (Source: I have a sauna.)

Given these two examples, I suspect that when people in live colder climates, their body generally keeps the blood further away from the skin’s surface.

Like I said, I’m not an expert, but I hope this helps.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Adding fat is part of it. I got fat immediately after moving to Alaska. It might be because it’s a cold dark depressing place and good produce is hard to find. But it happened and did help with the cold.

But in all seriousness, my diet changed due to the high caloric need. Fatty foods I had no interest in eating living the the desert are now really compelling to me. So my diet has changed to more energy dense food. And TBH less nutritious.

Anonymous 0 Comments

There’s a thin layer of fat under your skin, and there are different kinds of fat; some story energy, some burn energy. Your body changes what kinds of fat it makes based on the temperature where you are.

It’s been a long time, but as I remember it, there was a rule in the military that if you get reassigned from Camp Tropical Paradise to Camp Permafrost (or vice-versa), you can’t be required to do outdoor duty (hikes, guard duty, whatever) for more than an hour a day until you’ve been there for like two weeks, so that your body has time to adjust.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The body’s blood volume changes between winter and summer. In winter to conserve energy the body sends less blood to the skin. In summer the body MUST send MORE blood to the skin to radiate heat.

It takes years not weeks to adapt. A friend I grew up with in New England was totally familiar with freezing weather. Then she lived in southern California for ten years. Then she came back permanently to New England. She literally *suffered* for several years till her body acclimatised to the much more serious climate variation.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Tangential to your temperature question… People who live at high elevations have more hemoglobin (the part of the blood that carries oxygen), which can happen in a few weeks.

And if they’re there for generations (like people living in the Andes) their lungs & ribcage actually get larger than previous generations so they can breathe more air.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The real answer is homes in Florida are not build for cold temps and will let the cold in. Homes in Canada are warm and toasty inside even while it’s ass-freezy outside.