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Why are my hands and feet so cold?

Winter is here, and with it millions of cold extremities that can’t be warmed by ay amount of gloves or socks.

With winter approaching us (or is it here already?), jackets, gloves, double pants and hats are back in fashion. I for one hate feeling cold, and my ski socks get worked overtime at the slightest feeling of chilly feet.

At this time of year, some people really struggle with cold feet and hands. Although holding warm things like a cup of tea or putting your feet in the oven can bring some relief, the minute that warmth goes away, the cold returns and no amount of gloves or socks bring any comfort.

I hate cold feet, and luckily I seldom get them. But women deal with cold hands and feet (and also cold in general – more below) more than men. I absolutely love my wife using me as a hot water bottle to warm her limbs at every opportunity during winter, so let’s talk about more this phenomenon that brings so many couples together.

A fun winter tradition in my household.

Why?

You see, your body is amazing. As the weather gets cold, hormones get released to constrict your blood vessels in order to avoid dissipating too much heat through those large cylindric limbs, fingers and toes of yours. The big essential organs (torso, head) need heat to operate well, and if your hands and feet have to suffer a bit for that to happen, so be it. Vasoconstriction affects everyone, but how hard your body will dial it in depends on your muscle and fat content as they are insulators and will help keep your core warm. The smaller and skinnier you are, the more you’ll feel the effects of the cold.

Women tend to run at higher temperatures than men, on average. This means that they experience cold as colder than men, and the effects of not having warm blood in their extremities are particularly uncomfortable. This is also the same reason why women are always freezing in offices with air conditioning systems, as it is the norm to set the temperature based on what’s comfortable to men.

What about not using them to change the air con setting so it is perfect just for you?

As if all of that wasn’t enough, our hands are in of the areas of the body with the most sensory nerves (right up there with the lips and tongue, if you must ask), so when they get cold, they feel a lot of it. And as we use our hands to do pretty much everything, there’s a lot of apparatus there to give feedback from the environment to our brains.

If you fingers, toes, hands or feet get dark red or blue, or get so cold that they are painful, please go and see your doctor. Some treatments exist for known maladies that can cause this.

But if cold hands and feet are more of an everyday nuisance there’s a couple of things you can do to help.

Get, erm, warm?

Most of all, layer up. Especially try to keep as much warmth in your torso and head as you can. If your body feels like warmth is not going to be a problem for the vital organs, it will relax the whole “keep warm at all costs” policy and will relax your blood-ways to let some of that warm blood flow to your extremities a bit better.

If they feel particularly cold, do some quick exercise – 5-10 minutes of some jumping jacks, squats, or a brisk jog. That will build some heat in your core and open up your blood vessels too.

For some more consistent improvement, make exercise a habit – double points for the type that gets your heart pumping and your breathing going. Hardio cardio will help your body develop more blood vessels to keep your muscles full of oxygen, and also give that big heart-shaped muscle a good workout. With time, you’ll develop a stronger heart and a wider net of blood vessels, and blood will circulate more efficiently and freely, which will mean the little veins in your hands and feet will get a bit more of the share.

But it makes your heart warmer, Rebel.

Lastly, adjusting your diet to get some good plant-based fats in, or increasing fish intake (or fish oil) can help with circulation too. But be aware this won’t solve the problem if you don’t have good healthy habits to start with.

If you’re the type that uses your partner to warm up as a strategy, please do so considerately. I understand not everyone, like me, likes to be surprised just as they are about to sleep with a frozen hand on their warm neck, so give them some warning so they can hold back on the swearing, which will help make the experience more pleasant for everyone.

If you need some help with hardio cardio or would like to discuss the best way of being always warm so your dickhead partner can use you as a heater, get in touch.

1 reply on “Why are my hands and feet so cold?”

I used to have this problem all the time. Then I had kids and now I dont. Hormones are so weird. Although the mum bod might be to thank/blame too 😉

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