Are You a Woman Who’s Always Colder Than Men?

Are you often colder than the men around you? If you answered with an emphatic ‘yes,’ you may be interested to know there are scientific reasons why women often feel colder than men. Of course we’re not all the same, but here are some general observations about temperature, comfort and gender.

Most of the reasons you may feel cold are biological. And one reason is the result of an unfortunate numbers game.

Reason 1. Women produce less heat than men. We’re all warm blooded, but men are warmer. Males typically have more heat generating muscle and a higher metabolism so more heat is generated. But even when body composition and activity are factored in, ladies are still 3 to 10 percent cooler than men. A university study found the average woman’s hand temperature was 87.2 degrees while men on average were 90 degrees. A few degrees can make a noticeable difference.

If you’re a fit woman with more muscle, that does tend to counter the muscle effect. However, more fitness can result in less fat. Since fat is an insulator, more muscle with less fat may still not result in you feeling warmer.

Reason 2. Women’s blood vessels don’t efficiently warm the skin. Women’s blood vessels are typically farther from the skin. Men’s tend to be closer to the surface. Blood vessels that are farther from the skin surface don’t warm the skin as efficiently.

Women also tend to have more constricted blood vessels. That results in less warm blood reaching the skin surface.

Reason 3. A woman’s body is designed to keep the reproductive system warm, so heat tends to be kept in the woman’s body core. Men’s reproductive systems tend to work better at cooler temperatures, so excess heat in males is sent out to the skin to dissipate and help keep things cool and comfortable.

Reason 4. Women have more hormonal changes. Throughout the menstrual cycle, a woman’s basal temperature (the resting body temperature) changes. When it’s lower, you’ll feel cooler.

Perimenopausal (in the time shortly before menopause) and menopausal women may have hot flashes. That can result in chills afterward as the body works to regulate its temperature.

Some studies have shown that postmenopausal estrogen therapy can lower core body temperature at rest and during exercise, while the addition of progesterone to the therapy will block these effects.

Reason 5. Men have thicker, often oilier and hairier skin than women. These differences help make men feel warmer.

Reason 6. Some buildings use “comfortable temperature” standards that may not be compatible with women’s physiology. A study published in Nature found it’s been common for office building temperatures to be set using a decades old thermal comfort model. The challenge is that this formula is based on the metabolic rate of a 40-year-old man weighing 154 pounds.

Reason 7. Women and men tend to dress differently. Think of the man’s business suit with a collared shirt and tie (maybe a T-shirt under it) compared to a woman’s business suit with a jacket and an open collar blouse (maybe a slip). With summer air conditioning, the attire differences might be more stark. Men may continue with suits and/or long-sleeve shirts and slacks. Women may switch to sleeveless tops, skirts and sandals (it is summer after all). Consider which attire allows the most heat to be kept or lost.

If you’re always chilly, you may want keep that sweater nearby. Or visit with the thermostat keeper about re-evaluating the temperature settings. Give some thought before you make your case while wearing a sleeveless blouse, skirt and sandals. Good luck!

Meet the Author

Jacqueline M. Koski, DO is a family medicine physician at the Aurora Health Center in Fond du Lac, WI.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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