The family that shivers together

A scientific breakthrough from Denmark, the same people who gave us Legos, has the solution to the worldwide obesity epidemic, not to mention the global energy crisis. Their discovery ranks right up there with nuclear fusion and gluten-free pepperoni pizza.

Dutch endocrinologists — the fellows who concern themselves with the endocrine system, which is the study of raging hormones — issued a ground-breaking report recently that said people who are exposed to cold temperatures burn more calories and can lose weight faster than people on, say, the Pritikin diet, who do nothing but eat bacon all day.

It works like this. When you polish off a pint of Haagan-Dazs, which is ice cream from the Bronx with a Dutch name, it turns into fat and your body puts on extra pounds, especially if your only exercise is sitting on the couch watching Dancing with the Stars. However, you can get rid of those surplus calories by setting your home or office thermostat lower, which will make your body work harder to keep itself warm.

According to the Dutch researchers, lower temperatures activate what is known as “brown adipose tissue,” a kind of fat that “generates heat by burning calories from regular fat.” Their paper, which was published in “Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism,” says exposure to cold leads to weight reduction because it boosts your metabolism by up to 30%.

Shivering is even better because it boosts your metabolism by about 500%, and you can burn up to 400 calories an hour, which is more than cycling or walking. So reach for the thermostat instead of the Doritos.

When you shiver, it’s better for you than just sitting at your work computer playing solitaire, which burns approximately zero calories per hour, a little less than breathing. However, when you shiver AND play solitaire, it’s better than a workout at Planet Fitness. Plus you don’t have to shower.

You’re probably thinking, “OK, Mr. Wizard, this sounds great, but it won’t work in places like Florida, Texas and Louisiana, where they don’t even know what a furnace looks like and never paid a heating oil bill.” And you may ask, “How can Southerners lose weight and save on energy costs too, especially with all that deep-fried food?”

Simple. Instead of lowering their heat, we will turn off their air conditioning so they sweat off the calories. Just think of the energy savings for America when we stop using heating and air conditioning. Even better, we’ll have a nation of people who look like Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence or possibly Dog the Bounty Hunter.

In my previous job, the thermostat was a constant cause of arguments between the staff and management. People were always complaining the office was too cold, so in the corporate tradition of taking the bull by the horns and doing nothing ASAP, management decided to study the problem.

The staff pleaded with the head of human resources to do something and she, in turn, pleaded with the head of facilities to do something, and he, in turn, pleaded with his skilled technicians to do something, until finally under the threat of a union grievance, they put a thermometer in the office to prove to everyone that the problem was in their heads. Another job well done.

Say what you will, those cold temperatures kept the staff awake. They weren’t just shivering, they were sniffling and sneezing too.

The beauty of the Dutch plan is it will produce additional savings. We’ll be able to cancel our gym memberships because we’ll get the necessary cardio-vascular workout from shivering at our work stations. This will give us more quality time to spend with our parents, children and pets, shivering together as a family.

As an added bonus, America won’t have to rely on Arab oil anymore. Plus, we’ll be so healthy that New York City will lift its ban on Big Gulp and we’ll be able to drink 16-ounce sodas again without the fear of criminal prosecution.

Best of all, the money we save as a nation can be used to salvage the healthcare system, not to mention Social Security. As a patriotic American, I, for one, plan to get with the program starting tomorrow by turning down the thermostat ... in someone else’s office.

Joe Pisani may be reached at