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Could AC Be Making Us Fatter?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Temperatures in Cincinnati and across the country reached near-record highs over the past few weeks. I live in a third- and fourth-floor walk-up apartment just north of the city's center. According to my thermostat, it was 96 degrees Fahrenheit on the top floor of my apartment at 10 p.m.

I very rarely use air conditioning. I turned it on once this year when our fridge overheated and I needed to keep all our food on ice for 24 hours, and we used it the weekend it was over 100 degrees for three days straight, though we set it to 85.  I use it in the car sometimes when driving on the highway--I don't like so much wind blowing on me at high speeds--but even on the lowest setting I have to turn it off after a few minutes. Otherwise, I avoid it as much as I can.  

I'm a naturally cold person, requiring at least a sheet on even the most stifling of summer nights, wearing socks year-round, and shivering in the car, the office, and pretty much anywhere else that central air is in use. Going to a movie theater or the mall in summer leaves me with goosebumps and chattering teeth. When dining out during the warmest months, I opt for al fresco dining; it's no fun to shiver through your meals.

I grew up living in old houses, none of which had central air. From kindergarten through 12th grade, I went to school in buildings without it. My dorm room freshman year didn't have AC, but sophomore year it did, though I had moved to France by spring quarter, when we would actually need to use it. In France, neither my room nor my host mom's house was "climatisée" (air-conditioned) but we had heavy wooden shades that we could pull in to keep out the heat. I noticed there that some businesses or offices were air conditioned, but that didn't mean the entire building would be; the hallways, restrooms, and other communal areas often did not have AC. Most restaurants and small offices, even government ones, were not air conditioned; neither was my university.  No one seemed to mind its absence, so I soon stopped noticing.

Two weeks ago, I had to take my car in for a tune-up, in an area of town that offers little more than car dealerships, fast-food joints, and industrial sites. It wasn't exactly the ideal locale for a walk (on another 90+-degree afternoon) so I sat in the waiting area and responded to emails.

I carry an emergency sweater with me from May through September, which feels slightly ridiculous when walking about but is a lifesaver when blasted by Arctic air in a restaurant or store. Unfortunately, that day my sweater was in my car, which was then being worked on. I shivered, watched the goose bumps rise, and crossed my fingers for quick service. When I returned outside, I felt ill--it was SO hot. Too hot. My body didn't like the drastic fluctuation, and I ended up with a headache.

I just don't get it: Those of us in temperate climates anxiously await summer's sunshine and high temperatures, then the minute the mercury rises, we combat it with freezing-cold air conditioning. Why do we avoid the heat when we've been waiting for it all year?

People think I'm weird for avoiding AC and complaining about being cold in summertime, but as it turns out air conditioning might be among the modern conveniences taking its toll on our waistlines.

In a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, biostatistician David Allison, Ph.D., and colleagues suggest that America's reliance on AC might be a contributing factor in our obesity crisis.

Allison, a faculty member at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, found a significant "reduction in variability of ambient temperature." The use of AC is now widespread, especially in the South, where obesity rates are highest, and the human body is accustomed to being kept at a fairly steady temperature year-round. Allison and colleagues found that our reliance on central air and heat means we expend less energy, thus burning fewer calories, because we don't have to work as hard to heat up or cool down our bodies.

While climate control is just one of countless contributing factors that have led to the obesity crisis, it is interesting to note that of the 10 states with the lowest obesity rates, all but two (California and Hawaii) are in the northern half of the country, while seven of 10 of the heaviest states are located in the South (Ohio, Indiana, and Delaware are the heaviest states up north).

Another story on the findings points out that Europeans who live in climates similar to the southern states are not as obese--again, while not singling out AC use as a primary cause, it should be noted that southern France and Italy, for example, rely on heavy shutters, thick walls and other old-fashioned forms of climate control than we in the States do.

I've noticed that in both developing and developed countries outside the US, AC use is less prevalent--in Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, Guatemela, and Honduras, I felt much more comfortable on hot days. I love that in other countries, you feel the heat, and a little bit of sweat doesn't gross people out. It's summer, it's hot, we're supposed to sweat!

Just after reading this story about Allison's findings, I happened across a New York Times Opinion section debate on air conditioning: Should Air-Conditioning Go Global, or Be Rationed Away? While I won't dive into the environmental, political, or economic arguments here, I will recommend this take on the subject: Let's Not Let A.C. Turn Us Soft.

Before I started avoiding AC, I was much "softer."

In my youth, I complained relentlessly in summer that the one window unit in our apartment was not adequate. Later, when we moved into a home built in 1912, I didn't understand the work that would have gone into retrofitting such a place with central air. I sweated and I pouted, grateful that I spent summers babysitting for a family with AC. When I moved into my first apartment junior year of college, it had central air, and I was so excited!

But over the years, partly due to my travels and shivering all day long in newspaper offices, I changed my mind about AC.

I gave it up for good last summer. Though there have been some uncomfortable nights--trying to sleep when it's 90 degrees isn't always easy--I feel stronger physically. When I go for runs at night or spend weekend afternoons on the bike path, I don't feel the effects of the heat as I did in years past. I still take the same precautions: sunscreen, hat, layers, plenty of fluids, but spending time outdoors is a treat not a punishment.

Remember a couple of years ago when I confessed that I Gain a Few Pounds Every Summer. Well, in the summers since I wrote that, I haven't gained weight. I credit that to many things, but partially to being in tune with the climate, which helps me tune in to my hunger. If I had the AC on, I wouldn't mind eating a heavier dinner or turning on the oven. These days, I do everything I can to avoid heating up the kitchen, so I turn to lighter food--lots of salads, chilled bean dishes, and sandwiches. I honestly wait for a cooler night or a weekend morning when I have some extra time, and I cook big batches of basic foods: beans, whole grains, and the like. When I'm hot, my food cravings are different. I don't want heavy foods (though I do still like a really good beer on a hot night); I crave water-rich fruits and veggies.

Here's what else I do to stay cool:
  • Drink water. Lots of it. My rule is that if I'm sweating, I'm sipping. At home, my water bottle is always within reach.

  • Take cold showers. This was a tough one for me, but now I love the refreshing feeling of a cool (lukewarm, really) shower rather than a hot one. Even lowering the temperature 10 degrees can help, and then you don't have to step out into a steamy bathroom. (Bonus: I stop sweating after my summer workouts sooner than when I took hot showers.)
  • Wear fewer clothes. For those of you who live in families or with roommates (or for those who frequently host guests), it might not be as practical, but I live only with my boyfriend. I wear as little as possible that's still decent: a tanktop and running shorts or short, loose sun dresses when I'm at home. He often hangs out in shorts and no shirt.
  • Peppermint oil. I keep a tiny spray bottle filled with water and a hefty amount of peppermint oil in the fridge. I spray it on the back of my neck and pulse points before going outside or when I feel hot. The tingly cool effects of the essential oil last about an hour. When I go to outdoor events with a cooler, I bring along the peppermint oil. It works!
  • Use fans. I keep an oscillating fan on my desk, we keep ceiling fans running all the time, and use a box fan to create a cross-breeze at night.
  • Keep curtains drawn and blinds closed. My home office is in a corner of the living room that faces south and thus receives quite a bit of light--and heat. To cope with the afternoon sun, I lower the blinds 3/4 of the way and close them.
  • Appreciate the warmth. I relish the warm (warm!) breeze that blows in the window and allows me to smell the trees and flowers outside.

Whether my avoiding AC has any impact on my weight, I don't know for sure. What I do know is that summer's hottest days are easier to deal with now. My seasonal allergies have all but disappeared, too.  I appreciate every moment of summer, heat and all.

Do you use AC? Do you think it's weird to avoid it like I do?

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I fully agree that places use A/C to a much too-high extreme. I remember the days of sitting in my office in long sleeves in summer, space heater going, teeth chattering and not even being able to type because my fingers were frozen. I would come out of work and sit in my 100+-degree car for like 20 minutes with the windows up and LOVE IT, because the heat felt so good after freezing all day! However, I cannot survive without A/C at a reasonable level. I do not care what temperature it is outside... even 100-degrees would be fine with me... EXCEPT for the humidity! If humidity stayed at 30% or less, I would never use another air conditioner in my life! As far as it making us fatter?? No way! I would NEVER do a workout all summer long if it weren't for A/C. I sweat very easily, and not only would be a huge puddle of sweat if I worked out without A/C, but I actually end up with sometimes a days-long migraine if I exert myself when it's too hot and humid. I'm already falling behind on my exercise regimen because I can't stand the constant 70%+ humidity we've been having and I don't go for my daily walks. At this point, I do the best with my exercise routine from the months of late September to March, when it's not so uncomfortable to be outdoors. My husband DESPISES air conditioning, so we have a lot of fights about it, but my big issue is: He's a guy; he looks the same whether it's humid out or not. When I'm going somewhere where I have to look like a human, I can't be all sweaty and have my hair hanging in my face because the humidity made it droop horrifically. And, no, putting my hair up or in a ponytail is not an option for me. I look HORRIBLE with my hair off my face!! Also, he cannot stand the feeling of air blowing on him, like from a fan, so we can't even sleep with a fan on! I agree with the person who said you should marry someone who is climate-compatible with you!! Report
Wow. I would find it difficult to live without A/C now that I have for over 25 years. I grew up on a farm and lived without it, but I've always had a hard time with the heat and the humidity especially. Even as a kid the heat/humidity would cause me to feel lethargic and oxygen deprived. I sincerely thank God for A/C! Report
I live in northern MN where we need AC about 10 days a year. I opted for ceiling fans - 5 of them (more within our budget) rather than central air. Sure we sweat and my kids complain a little, but as we are out in a very rural area, it cools down quite comfortably at night. There may be one or two nights per season that don't cool down, but it is certainly tolerable. Now I am glad to know there's a bonus for my lack of AC in my house. Report
I live in the tropics and for the past three weeks the heat index (real feel temp) has been over 100 almost everyday. When at home I can tolerate not having my AC on during the day and I don't turn my AC on in my car because that makes my gas run out twice as fast but I cannot sleep with the AC off. I wake up sweating in the middle of the night even with the fan on. Report
I grew up without AC and always had a problem with heat rashes. I'm very sensitive to higher heat temps... don't feel well in it at all. Also, it never made a difference for me whether I was skinny or overweight - never liked hot temperatures. If I could find a place to live year-round where it was always in the 50s-60s, I'd be a happy camper. Even when I'm really cold in the wintertime, I still never wish for hot summer weather. And when summer is here, I live for AC. I do use the "tricks" you mention above to try to stay cool but they don't work for me. Hot is hot. I'm glad you are able to enjoy it... wish my body was wired that way. Report
I grew up and still live in a place where it often gets to 110+ degrees in the Summer. Give up AC? Not likely. I lived like that when I was a kid. My parents home had no central air OR heat. Can I handle living without it? Sure. I did for years. Will I ever willingly do that again? Nope. Definitely not. Report
I too avoid AC, Because it may harmful to health sometimes. Without using AC also many of us will get fat due to lack of work out and proper diet. I got few info in this page for proper diet plan. check it out guys.

I don't know about making you obese, because then I guess I'd weigh over 300lbs. I'm currenting about 25lbs overweight and I hate A/C. I stopped using A/C over 10 years ago when I was running around town and noticed that I couldn't deal with getting out of the car. That the 2 seconds it took to go from the car to a/c was a living hell and I could barely breath. It was over 100 that day. I then made a leap that if I didn't get used to the heat I would never enjoy the outdoors during the summer and I would be stuck inside. I didn't like that prospect so i went cold turkey on it. I used mostly for the cats when I wasn't home and I couldn't leave the windows open. Then I use it for the week or two in the summer when temperatures get too hot to be able to do anything during the day or even sleep at night. Other than that I don't use it. Now that the cats have all passed I use it even less. I would have to sometimes turn it on when I was home because my cats would give me that look that says "why are you torturing me, it's hot I have a fur coat, common on" I could never say no so I would turn it on and put on a sweater. Now it's just me and I will turn it on when people come to visit but I like it hot. It's 94 right now and the fans are blowing the hot air around and I am not breaking a sweat. It's nice!
So glad to read about another person, and from comments, persons, who despise air-conditioning
loved this blog - helped me feel more "normal" LOL I also do not like AC! I don't turn it on until it is over 90 degrees for more than a few days outside. I keep it set at 83 and no lower... and even as I type this, I have my blanket over my legs/feet :) If I were not married with 4 kids, 2 kittens and a dog, I probably wouldn't have it on and if I did, 85 sounds perfect! When we go anywhere in the summer I freeze and as soon as I step outside, I usually yell out "ah it feels SOOOOO good out here" (I get some crazy looks) Even today between Sunday School and Church service, I had to step outside to warm up.
I don't care, I am not giving up my AC. Report
To each his own. I do not enjoy hot humid weather, which we suffer thought for at least 1 month in the summer, here in southern Ontario. I use A/C as much as possible. I don't function well when I'm dripping wet. I envy people which enjoy the heat and humidity. I'm sure they get more enjoyment out of summer than I do. Here's to an early fall and no more A/C. Report
At my office, the woman who is always cranking the AC is also frequently wearing a sweater. I'm glad that I don't understand this behavior. Report
I enjoy the heat, but not the humidity. When I worked in Guam for a month, I realized people were staring at me in the hotel eatery. Took me awhile to realize it was because I was always wearing my down jacket. I lived in Angola for 6 years. We used AC to discourage the malaria carrying mosquitoes. Now I'm living in Scotland and have no need for AC, but would enjoy having central heating! I've been living year round in thermal underwear and wool socks! Report
I grew up in rural Michigan where we would have one or two days every Summer that got up to 90F and even in the Summer it could dip down to 40F on cooler nights. Almost nobody had air conditioning. We just opened the windows and turned on a fan when we got hot. When I moved to Texas it was during the heat wave of 1980 when we had 100 days over 100F. And I didn't have air conditioning! It was quite a shock to this Northerner. I can't imagine going without air conditioning now. Even where I grew up now has weeks over 90F every year now; guess you have to go farther north to get comfortable Summers.. I have a fairly large comfort zone; I don't get cold at theaters or restaurants no mater how low the air conditioning is set and I'm perfectly comfortable up to about 85F unless it is very humid. I rarely complain either way. Report
I agree that extremes in heating and cooling are unhealthy for people and the planet. It is a shock to the system to go from torrid outside to frigid indoors. Most public buildings are cooled too much.
When it is 100 outside, my A/C is set at 80, when it is freezing, the furnace is set at 60. I'm glad of the comfort and convenience of central climate control! Report
I am very sensitive to heat and it makes me sick quickly so I do like the ac in my house especially in this 90+ degree summer we are having.
I grew up in an old house with no air conditioning and I can not sleep when it is hot and muggy so didn't get a lot of sleep in the summer time even with a fan blowing straight on me all night. plus it makes my stomach hurt and gives me a massive headache. It is fine for those that like the heat, but one of the reasons I still live in northern Indiana although I hate the winters is because I don't tolerate heat.
I do agree that most stores, offices and business places have the a/c on way too high. It try to keep our house around 78 so it doesn't feel so much hotter when we go outside or too cold when we go back in. Report
I grew up without a/c. Now my unit is turned on at night for my family in our room. I don't like the cold blast in stores and when I come out and walk outside, the heat feels worse! I don't know about it 's making us fatter, but, I know that allergies are worse with the a/c on. Report
Hi..we live in a house with no air conditioning..and we have had a heat wave over the past month...summer is short and I'm still chubby... Report
I would appreciate it more if I weren't in endless days of heat of over 100 degree temps, that is Oklahoma for you. I do as much as I can in the morning at 7 am its already 80 degrees. I still keep the AC at 75 and just wear sundresses and shorts and tanks. I exercise indoors, treadmill and jillian michaels so you can't say AC is making me fat. I long for the days where i can go walk or bike outside again after work. Report
When the temps hit triple digits...my A/C is ON!! Unless humid then all bets off because it comes on earlier. No way would I swelter even IF it meant losing a few pounds. Living in the desert it is hot from June to October, love my A/C in my home, my car, every where I go. Love my pool too. And as someone else mentioned...correlation is not the same as causation. I believe there are lots of other things going on that contribute and not A/C per se....more on the lines of what foods those areas are famous for...do they have lots of available activities...poverty levels, etc. I've also found that in our area, most people keep there thermostats at 77 or above and many stores, malls, theaters are not that frigid cold that I have felt elsewhere...just nice and cool not cold. Report
I am so terribly hot ALL the time that I could not survive without A/C. I sweat in the house when A/C is set at 75 and have to have a desk fan on me at all times EVEN with A/C on and set at 74. I feel physically ill in the heat. The nausea would keep form moving at all. So, this theory does not fly with me at all. Report
I use the a/c only when I have to. Report
I live in Kansas City, home to high humidity. In addition, my partner has MS. She would not be able to function and would be VERY ill without a climate-controlled environment. Of course, this is all part of why people live longer these days. Report
Having grown up in Phoenix, also living with only a swamp cooler through the summer, I can take the heat. What I can't take is the humidity. I now live in Illinois and humidity makes me cranky, so to keep from having my family and friends kill me, I prefer to keep the window ac's going. I do strongly believe that fans are not used widely enough. I think that industrial buildings would be able to raise their thermostats if they employed ceiling fans to move the cool air around and then the difference between outside and inside wouldn't be so extreme. Report
For the 20+ years I lived in Tucson, Arizona, arguably one of the nation's warmer cities, I had only 'swamp cooling'--water is sprayed onto a box of pads through which a powerful fan blows. That works very well in a dry (read 10% humidity, most days, max) climate, but became less than useless during monsoons, when the weather becomes the desert equivalent of Georgia. But I only purchased a small ac unit in the last two years of my stay--and only used it for maybe 4 weeks of our 9-month summer.

I HATED having to enter/leave refrigerated buildings. My body ached with the change. What really opened my eyes were the 2-week trips I took with my research team; we camped in the desert 24/7 for the entire time. Bathing was very minimal (when we returned to civilization, we were avoided, for good reason, till we had cleaned up!) and after the first really miserable day, I simply didn't notice the heat. Yes, we wore hats, yes we drank water and water and water, but that was it, and we worked out in the heat all day long, not always in full sun, but always in 100+ temps.

Long story short, I never got sick, never had the problems with pain I had when I went from house-car-work-car-store-car-house in the city. Yeah, ac is necessary in some climates, but if you condition yourself by enjoying the shift from winter to summer, it's not nearly as essential.

I live in the NW now, and although I have a heat pump, which means I have ac, I never use it. It's so much better (for me) to acclimatize myself to the weather. My house is (my friends say) terribly cool in winter and uncomfortably warm in summer, but I am comfortable, because I've let my body adjust to reality, rather than trying to shape my environment to my desires. Report
I live in the South, and yet with the exception of the time I was away at college, I did not have central air conditioning until I was past age 35. The heat was just something we endured. We had an attic fan that we used at night to draw in the cooler air, and tried to keep the sun out of the house during the day. We sat around outside at night, meeting and talking with neighbors. We drank a whole lot of ice tea! We fanned ourselves and tried to ignore feeling sticky-slimy-sweaty. We begged our parents to let us run through the sprinkler. We made do, as nearly everybody else we knew did. When I had my first child, my husband brought home an old, used, room air conditioner , and I remember it felt like magic. Suddenly no one, including the new baby, was nearly as cranky as before!

With temps hovering around 100 day after day, humidity that feels like you're walking through hot fog, and "ozone action alerts" that tell us to stay indoors, I'm thankful for every day that I have a/c. Now when I shower, I can dry off ~ those who live in hot, humid areas know what I mean. My hair actually dries. I *feel* so much better. Does it contribute to obesity? Who knows? I know it definitely contributes to my sanity! Report
I have celebrated my weight loss by savoring the heat and being able to tolerate higher heat to a much greater degree. We have never had AC in our home and although some of the recent extremely hot temps have tempted us, I doubt we ever will. It seems incongruous to me to turn to AC and the fossil fuels it takes to operate AC as a means of cooling when in fact burning fossil fuels contributes to the increase in global temperatures.

Yet on the other hand I realize, with the WAY extreme heat bearing down on the south, AC could well spell the difference between life & death for many people. I'm not sure what the answer is, but shake my head in concern and awe at the forest of AC units I recently saw on the top of an apartment complex in Baltimore...!

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I love cold and loathe heat. I break out in rashes because I perspire so much that my skin chafes. You can always put on more clothing; you can only strip down so far. Report
To each his own, I suppose, but when my house would be well over 100 degrees without air conditioning, my health and my kids's health would be at risk. It would be dangerous not to use air conditioning. That said, I keep it between 78 and 80 to save money, not because we wouldn't prefer it cooler. And I always bring a jacket to the auto mechanic's and to the library, because those places are always far too cold in the summer. Report
I can't imagine going through summer in New Orleans w/out AC. I do agree, however, that public places (such as restaurants) are often much too cold, and I also carry an emergency sweater, even in summer. Report
I have to say I like the air conditioning. Living in Texas, it is necessary! I just wish it wasn't so expensive to keep cool!
Interesting blog and thoughts to be considered. To each his own, I say! Report
Aside from the giant gaping causation vs correlation hole that others have already mentioned, I just can't identify with this at all. I don't spend the winter wishing it were summer. I rarely think that AC is too cold. And I think that turning the heat above 60 in the winter makes people soft. Report
Personally I HATE HATE HATE HATE AC, and I'm the same way-usually always cold but when it's 90 plus I'm outside enjoying the sun. People today have become wimps. It's true-wimps. Some people just naturally do better in cooler weather and I agree there are times when AC is needed, such as in hospitals and for the elderly (and how high up in the building you live). But I have noticed that when I'm in AC and go outside, I get sick, even if I'm in AC for a few minutes. People depend on AC way too much. People today are spoiled. I do notice that I eat less when I'm hot, so I have to say that I think that AC has something to do with it; how much, I couldn't say. Don't be afraid to get outside and sweat! Of course I worked at horse farms for the last 16 years so yeah, I'm used to it. Report
I'm a person who is always cold .. and love the heat. I find it most enjoyable to hang out at the pool with a cold drink, baking in 110 degree heat of the desert anyday :-) Report
I hate air conditioning with a passion. I am from northern Canada and I can't wait for the warmth of summer! I used to go to bridge tournaments in the US, but couldn't tolerate the air conditioning they put on a such a low temperature. It also made me sick as I am allergic to mold and dust and those rarely cleaned things were full of it -just take a look at the out take sometime on the outside of the building -they quite often have threads of dust and black mold hanging from them. Any time I visit a warm southern state, I would spend as little as time as possible indoors. I even left notes for the hotel maid to turn off the A/C after they were done cleaning my room! Our cars used to have A/C is an option, it was a good heater we needed here. No matter how hot it gets, we rarely use the A/C. My Mom agrees she doesn't like it either. Just my step dad wants it.
Here is to stop wasting energy using that stuff!! Report
I used to say that I am not "normal" because I freeze in the summer from the a/c.
In my office I freeze, in the restaurants and grocery stores, I shiver from the COLD settings. Now, from these comments, I see that others are the same. I always have long sleeves, always have a sweater with me, and actually use a space heater at my desk all summer long. Don't know why settings can't be more "reasonable" for ME. LOL (Went through menopause and never had a "hot flash"---) Must admit that when summer temps are above 100, a little a/c is necessary.... And married couples should be thermostatically compatible. lol Report
Please don't confuse correlation with causation. Wealthier and more highly educated people in the US are much less likely to obese. This by itself probably explains the higher rate of obesity in southern states. Report
I got away without one last year, but we had to get one this year. (And now of course the weather has cooled off considerably and we aren't using it much) Once it gets above about 75 I'm a sweaty, cranky mess.

But pretty much all of the women in my family are the same way, so I'm not alone in my "w"itchy attitude when it's hot! Report
I grew up in El Paso, TX, where we had swamp coolers. I lived for a while in Houston, TX, and swore I never wanted to live in a place like that again. It was only the last few months there that we had AC. Now that I live in Shelton, WA, where most of the year it is cool and rainy, I love the cooler weather and dread summer. I get weak during the hot weather and stay inside most of the day with the AC. Love AC and love cool weather! Report

Correlation does not equal causation. There are a lot of reasons people are fat and I think air conditioning is the least of the worries. Socioeconomics, class, tradition, access, politics, environmental factors, education, etc. play a much bigger role than air conditioning (or technology in general). The (American) South was cited in this article and I’d challenge you to ask anybody there if A/C was making them fat! Add to that, I’d challenge you to go to Mississippi any day this month when the humidity is over 100% and the heat index is just as high and not use A/C. It’s a convenience for some but it’s a lifesaver for others.

I live on the West Coast where it doesn’t get too hot very often but when the mercury rises above 85 degrees you can find me in my air-conditioned house or my air-conditioned car. I am not one of those people who look forward to the hot weather but I deal with it as a fact of life. It’s so interesting to read other people’s comments.
I think to air-condition or not is a personal choice, and I choose not most of the time. We live in a very old home, and it is not really wired for air conditioners at this time. We do run fans, though, and now we like the air movement year round. The dog might want it a little cooler, but we do our best to help him out. My family waits a long time for summer weather, and we try to enjoy it as best we can -- pools also help! Report
I don't think the problem is the a/c per se. I think the problem is that more Americans now have sedentary jobs in buildings that happen to have a/c. Like, Steph, I grew up in old houses that didn't have a/c. we had a fan. In grammar and high school, some rooms had a/c, some didn't. When I went to university, ditto, the newer buildings had a/c. if you were stuck in an old building, you had to open the windows. Did we complain ? Yup ! but, we managed.

Today, I do like being in an air conditioned building. sweating when you're trying to work is a definite distraction. So, a/c does improve the quality of work life in that regard.

Does it make people fatter ? I don't think so. It may be a symptom of a larger problem, but it's not the cause of the problem. I still believe that portion distortion, lack of regular exercise, poor nutrition, prevalence of fast food chains, etc... have more to do with the increasing of the American waistline than using a/c.

a/c is a modern convenience no different than a washing machine, microwave oven, computer, smartphone, etc....

In general, a person could make an argument that TECHNOLOGY is making us fat.

We are all different. I know people like me who are overweight and freezing all the time. Me, I've been unable to tolerate heat since I was a baby - can make me literally sick. I live in an area that usually doesn't get as warm as it has been this year. So many of us do not have central air. A condition of marrying my husband was that I must have an a.c. in the summer - so we have a window unit for sleeping. These days I've been up there alot. Report
I'm actually a person who LOVES the cold weather and as soon as summer comes around, I'm longing for snow [thankfully, the height of summer only lasts a couple weeks here and winter lasts about October-April]. That being said, I don't use AC [don't even have it in my house] and I'm out every day despite my lack of fondness for the heat. Even last week, when the temperatures were up to 96 with 80% humidity, I was going for 20 mile bike rides with no problem. Yes, I would come home a sweaty mess and sit in front of a fan for a few minutes, but it wasn't that bad. When I went on a bike ride with my local cycling group this weekend, it was early and the temp was only about 80, yet people were complaining about the heat. I thought it was pleasant, especially compared to last week's temperatures! I guess they spend all day sitting in AC and their bodies have a hard time getting used to the changes. Report
I freeze every day in my office and I don't have control over the temperature. I have a sweater at my desk, but it's such a pain to try to type with numb fingers. Then, I end up drinking lots of hot tea & hot chocolate on a 100 degree day. It's a bit ridiculous & a total waste of energy. I'd even settle for turning it down about 5 degrees to a normal temperature. :/ Report
I am a naturally cold person, plus being on blood thinners doesn't help matters. I actually have a space heater in my office that I have going all summer long, because the A/C at my office makes it so darn cold.

Now at home, I do keep the A/C on, because I live in the South and have pets I need to consider. However, I have the thermostat set to 80, and it's comfortable for me. My energy use is typically a LOT lower than that of most households in my neighborhood. Report
Glad to see I'm not alone in my aversion to frigid A/C use! I don't understand why most people set the A/C to be colder than the temperature setting in the winter. It just doesn't make sense! I love temperatures in the mid-80s and up and people think I'm nuts because I have my A/C set in the low 80s - mainly to keep the humidity at a comfortable level. I also think it's weird that I can't dress for the summer and have to wear long sleeves at work and carry a sweater with me. Sigh.

I also find it ironic that people concerned about being "green" have no concept as to how much energy they're wasting by keeping the A/C at such a low temperature. We've definitly gotten "soft" in this country. Report
I'm another one who avoids the A/C. I also have an emergency sweater, usually it fits in my giant purse. I find the A/C tends to kick up my allergies. I also found as I lost weight I just don't get hot as easily unless there is sever humidity involved. Report
Thank you for the excellent tips on keeping cool! I am an elderly person and find that I can tolerate high heat over a prolonged period less and less. I will not be able to afford air conditioning much longer, so I am trying to acclimate myself. I am increasingly having bouts of dizziness and vision failures for brief periods of time when I do activities that raise my heart rate on hot days. I do most of the things you suggest except I have not tried the peppermint oil. I have a small bottle of the stuff somewhere; hope it still is potent. Really enjoyed this blog! Report
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