A new study has revealed what Canadians long hoped to be true: Harsh winters are actually good for our health.
That’s right, the more crappy winters you’re exposed to, the longer you’re expected to live. So, now you have a least one reason to be grateful for our longest, most annoying season.
Published in the journal Nature, the study found that colder and more severe winters actually create an environment in which Canadians’ white blood cells thrive.
“It all goes back to evolution,” said Dr. Avril Phoulz, one of the lead researchers involved in the study. “We found that Canadians have actually adapted to the cold environment they’re living in, so lower temperatures were found to benefit our immune systems in ways that can prolong life.”
How does that work? Normally, human cells function best when the body’s core temperature is somewhere around 30-degrees Celsius. But for Canadians, cells tended to perform tasks better when the temperature was just a little bit chillier than that, say 28 or 29 degrees. The phenomenon is similar to what you get when you compare a polar bear to a grizzly bear: They’re both bears, but evolution has made it so that one will fare much better if left in a colder climate.
In other words, Canadians have become polar humans.
The researchers say more work is needed to find out if any of these genealogical similarities are also present in other typically cold countries, like Russia or Norway.
“This was a Canadian-specific study, but now, we’re curious to know if the same effect is present in other cold countries, because humans have a longer recorded history of living there,” Phoulz said. “The effect could be magnified.”
Interestingly, the study found that cold was even more beneficial to the immune systems of aboriginal Canadians, which would echo the same point.
To nail down these findings, researchers isolated groups of people living in different climate zones across the country and recorded their life expectancy over a 30-year period. What they found was the further north they went, the more rates of disease dropped, while life expectancies rose accordingly. In extreme cold areas like Iqaluit, Nunavut, scientists found that residents were outliving average Canadians by upwards of 10 years! Some of them even look younger than they would if born elsewhere:
Additionally, during the recent spat of brutal weather attributed to the polar vortex, Canadians saw a decline in cancer rates and even sick days in the workplace, while test scores went up in schools from coast to coast.
So, what can you do to reap the benefits of this study right now? Phoulz recommends all Canadians stick their heads in a freezer for about 10 minutes a day.
“Your head is where your body releases heat. So, standing with your head in a freezer for 10 minutes will drop your core temperature just enough for your white blood cells to work optimally,” Phoulz said. “If you can’t do that, tape an ice-cube to the side of your face.”
The conservative government has since reviewed the study’s findings and said it will unveil its new “Stay Cold” program in the coming months, which will cut the heat supply to all Canadian residences from November through to February. Stephen Harper says the “green” program will also reduce emissions by 20 per cent.
“Fortunately for the findings of this study, we now know that summer is basically a terrorist,” he said. “We plan on involving the military in this somehow.”
Stay cool, Canada. Oh, and happy April Fool’s.
Did you fall for our little trick? Good! But we don’t actually want you to go out and stick your head into a freezer tonight (we’d rather not get sued, thanks), and you won’t get any health benefits from particularly brutal winters. But if we can credit the cold season for anything, it would be for giving Canadians such an awesome sense of humour. How else would we manage to survive six months of frigid darkness only to emerge as polite and friendly as ever? But now it’s your turn to keep the fun going. How many of your friends do you think you’ll fool with our little prank? Share the story and let us know in the comments below!