Discover The Healthiest Climate That Could Help You Live Longer
Healthy climate: how certain weather conditions can help you live a longer, healthier and happier life.
We Brits are so well known for talking about the weather that it’s almost become a worldwide cliche. It’s a common ice-breaker that can easily bring us together in any circumstances and help start a conversation.
However, when it comes to personal preferences, there is little common ground when defining what ‘ideal weather’ means.
Indeed, the concept of ‘the perfect climate’ is extremely subjective: for some people, the fluffy snow of the Alps in winter is very close to paradise; for others, it is the dry summers of the Mediterranean, while some might prefer the humid tropical heat of Thailand.
What many will agree with is that, when it comes to choosing the perfect place to live abroad, the weather and climate always have a significant influence on our decision making.
Regardless of how we imagine the ideal climate, experiencing it in real life might change our views dramatically.
For example, if you live in fabulous tropics, you may one day stop noticing the lushness and colours of the surrounding nature, and realise with annoyance that everything around you, including your laundry and paper banknotes in your wallet, is always slightly damp.
Or that the dry climate you have been longing for actually means living in a desert with very little scenery.
Or that fairy-tale postcard snowy winters are actually cold, and not only do you need a huge wardrobe to accommodate all the winter clothes, you also need to spend at least half an hour putting them on before venturing out for a quick run to the closest corner shop.
Whatever our weather preferences are, there’s one common question that many of us wonder about – how healthy is the climate we live in? And if it’s not very healthy, how do we go about choosing a better one?
When it comes to the weather, just like with everything else, the human body usually appreciates moderation.
While the question of the perfect climate might cause arguments, few people will actually disagree that life seems to be particularly pleasant when it’s sunny and +23°C outside.
There is something magical about this combination: ‘sunny and +23°C’ draws us outdoors, makes bad things feel not so bad and good things feel simply amazing, calms and inspires us, puts smiles on our faces and keeps us more active and positive.
It’s not just our imagination. There is strong scientific evidence to support the beneficial effect of ‘sunny and +23°C’ on our health.
Surveys of weather preferences show that, for Europeans, the most preferred temperature range is 20 to 26°C, within which 22 to 23°C is simply ideal. Adults young and old confirm that this temperature is the most comfortable.
There is little magic in it; the explanation lies in our biology and body chemistry.
One of the body’s most important tasks is temperature regulation. When the ambient temperature is too hot or too cold, we use energy to regulate our body temperature.
Our body works like a generator, only instead of petrol, it uses glucose to produce energy. We then use the energy to shiver or sweat to maintain a healthy temperature within our body, and although it’s not an excessively taxing job, it still takes a lot of our resources.
It is even harder for our body to regulate its inner temperature in humid climates, as excessive humidity negatively affects our ability to sweat and cool down.
However, when we are in the 22 to 23°C temperature span and in a Mediterranean type of climate (dry-summer climate), there is no physical stress to our body. Consequently, there is no need for us to maintain constant thermoregulation in heating and air conditioning, which depletes our body from energy.
Imagine that you’re going for a drive on a very hot day and have to use air-con in the car to make the temperature bearable.
Using the air-con can increase your fuel consumption by up to 20 percent because of the extra load on the engine. You might also find at this point that your car doesn’t have enough power to drive up a particularly steep hill.
The same happens with our body: in excessive temperatures, it constantly spends precious energy to do the air-con role.
However, when the ambient temperatures are comfortable, our body works in an extremely energy-efficient mode as it has no physical discomfort to deal with. That’s why it stays relaxed, full of energy, and able to be active for longer.
Warm, dry, sunny weather without excess heat or cold is immensely beneficial for our mental health.
It is common knowledge that people who live in cold climates with less sunshine and longer nights tend to experience higher rates of alcoholism, depression, obesity, and suicide compared with those who live in warm and dry Mediterranean type climates.
This is because people living in sunnier climates have more exposure to light. Sunlight has the ability to boost production of the body’s “happy chemical” – serotonin.
Serotonin is a natural “feel good” chemical that, with the right conditions, can be produced within our body.
As research shows, serotonin influences our mood, appetite, sleep, learning and memory.
Lack of serotonin can result in depression and overeating. Some people try to make up for the lack of serotonin by taking drugs and drinking alcohol.
Healthy levels of serotonin in our brain help us control our emotions and feel happier and more positive. Serotonin also improves our learning abilities, memory and sleep.
Healthy levels of serotonin in our intestines make sure our appetite goes down when we’re eating. As a result, we feel full quicker, don’t overeat, and it’s easier to maintain a healthy weight.
Also, when it is sunny and +23°C, we tend to spend more time outdoors being active. It’s much more pleasant to go for a long walk or play a game of tennis with your friend when it is sunny and +23°C; while if it goes above 26°C, most of us would probably prefer a chaise lounge and a nice patch of shade to a tennis court.
Funnily enough, it’s self-perpetuating: when it’s sunny and +23°C, you spend more time outside being active and exposed to sunlight, which helps you feel happier, healthier and keen on spending more time outdoors.
Well, obviously, it is. The question is where to find such places where the weather is balmy and beautiful all year round. Do they even exist in Europe? Or do we all have to emigrate to the Central Valley in Costa Rica to enjoy the health benefits of ‘sunny and +23°C’ all year round?
The good news is that if you’d prefer to retire closer to Britain, there are locations in Europe with absolutely amazing microclimates that can give you a near-perfect climate to support your health.
Moreover, even if your favourite location does suffer from temperature extremes, remember that when you retire, there is no job, school, babysitting grandchildren or other obligations that tie you to one place. Use your freedom and escape the hottest or coldest days in your country of residence to explore other parts of the world.