How Cold Weather Can Help You Lose Weight Without Exercising

But even so, you might not want to do it.

— -- Turning down the thermostat may not only help you save on your heating bill, it also could be the secret to losing weight.

Research published last year in the journal Cell Metabolism compared the calorie burn in subjects as they exercised in a 65 degree lab and then lay down on a bed chilled to 53 degrees until they started shivering.

Around 50 grams of brown fat burned an additional 300 calories daily, the study found. That’s about the same as a 30-minute jog, according the Compendium of Physical Activity.

“Most of us are not under much thermal stress, which means brown fat production has basically been turned off in our bodies,” he said.

A Japanese study published last year showed subjects who donned hospital gowns and spent several hours a day in a 61-degree room lost about a pound in six weeks. Keep up this routine over the course of the year and you would expect to drop about 15 pounds without setting foot in the gym, Chawla said.

However, as Chawla pointed out, most people have little tolerance for such discomfort. They’d prefer to stay toasty warm.

“Enduring a few moments of cold each day in the winter isn’t enough to stimulate brown fat production,” Chawla said. “People may actually gain weight in colder months because they tend to move less and eat more.”

The solution, Chawla said, may eventually come in the form of a pill.

“Pharmacologically, we may be able to develop something that stimulates brown fat cells without the exposure to cold,” he said.