Why do I shiver when I’m cold?

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Brr, it’s cold outside! The depths of winter have still firmly got their claws into us, and it’s hard to imagine leaving the house without at least seven layers of clothing. However, no matter how many scarves we can wrap around ourselves, we always seem to end up cold! So why does our body start to shiver?

Warm bodies

Although we may not always feel warm, our bodies naturally keep the core temperature around 98.6 Fahrenheit – or 36.9 Celsius. If we get too cold, we run the risk of catching hypothermia, and our heart rate begins to slow. In fact, we can even get so cold that we feel as though we’re burning! Don’t worry though, this is only if we get really cold. That’s why our bodies are adapted to keeping nice and toasty. Even when our fingers and toes feel as though they have frozen, our body is keeping our core (and all our organs) at a pleasant temperature. A warm body is a happy body.

That special part of our brain

Ah, the hypothalamus. No, we didn’t just make up a word. No, it’s not a large, water-loving animal found in Africa. This is the part of our brain that is in control of keeping us perfectly stable. It measures all aspects of our body from the external environment to internal signals in a bid to keep us feeling entirely level. If something starts to change, such as our temperature, the hypothalamus jumps on the case and sets about restoring order. If it weren’t for this portion of our brain, our bodies would be a chaotic mess.

Loss of heat

Sadly, there are only so many ways that we can keep warm. From standing next to a heater to layering up in clothes, why do our bodies cool down so much? Well, that’s all due to the fact that heat will naturally move from something warm to something cool. This is nature’s way of trying to keep the planet in balance – almost like it’s very own built-in hypothalamus! As all our body heat starts to escape into the world around us, we can be left feeling pretty chilly. That’s when our bodies might begin to shiver.

Uncontrollable movements

Shivering is a completely involuntary response to the environment, and there is a very clever reason our bodies get moving when we’re cold. Kinetic energy (movement) creates heat. Ever wonder why you get hot when you do exercise? Your body doing all that moving is what’s raising the temperatures. When we are shivering, our muscles and contracting and relaxing incredibly quickly which replicates movement. By shivering our body is moving without us thinking. All that movement means more heat. Our hypothalamus is just trying to keep us warm!

It looks as though all this shivering is our body’s way of helping us out. Although it may not make us suddenly feel hot, shivering will help to keep us feeling just a smidge warmer than if we were standing completely still. It looks as though it might be time to grab another coat to thank our bodies for looking after us.

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