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Is it Better to Run or Walk in The Cold, Scientifically Speaking?

Is it Better to Run or Walk in The Cold, Scientifically Speaking?

It’s a classic problem each and everyone of us has had to deal with: you find yourself completely naked in the cold wilderness — if we had a nickel… But after having a quick conversation with ourselves about making better life decisions, what’s the best course of action to stay warm: remain still, walk, or run for help? Turns out it depends on how fast you can can run.

In the latest video from one of our favorite YouTube science channels, MinutePhysics, the thermodynamic answer to this frigid problem is a matter of generating enough heat to overcome the windchill factor and loss of body heat that comes with running in the cold.

Your body warms the surrounding air when you’re standing still in the cold — a protective little heat bubble you lose when you start running. Also working against your warmth is the cold air you come in contact with as you go forward. The trade off is that when you run, you also generate more body heat, so it becomes a matter of reaching a level of speed where you are creating more warmth from running than you lose in moving.

cold-run-minute-physics

If you can’t go fast enough, you’re better off not moving at all and avoiding the “forbidden range of speeds” where you are at a net heat loss.

So how fast is fast enough? If you’re completely naked, and it is freezing outside, it’s a brisk five-minute-mile pace, which for most of us isn’t happening. The good news is that if you have enough clothing to mitigate just a 50% loss of surface area body warmth, that running number jumps up to a 15-minute-mile pace — a lot more manageable, especially when you’re trying to get to toasty safety.

minute-physics-cold-run-walk

And once you are there, take another moment or two to figure out why you keep ending up alone, naked in the cold.

What would you do in this situation? Stay still or try to make a run for it? Hurry up and find the warmth of our comments section below to tell us your answer.

Featured Image: Warner Bros.
Body Images: MinutePhysics

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