It can feel terrible. But shivering may actually benefit you, possibly reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Dutch researchers found that regular exposure to the cold can somehow help the body control blood sugar levels.
Fifteen overweight volunteers were exposed to temperatures as low as 10C (50F), similar to that of a cold bath or shower.
But instead of bravely taking a dip, the volunteers wore a special permeable suit that regulated their temperature for them.
They all had to shiver for an hour a day, for 10 consecutive days.
Scientists from Maastricht University took blood glucose tests from the participants before the experiment started, but also immediately afterwards.
The results showed that their blood sugar levels dropped from an average of 5.84 to 5.67 mmol/L – the equivalent of about 6 percent.
Fasting glucose values above 5.5 mmol/L may indicate diabetes.
Blood pressure readings — which tend to be higher in overweight people — also fell by 8.4 percent.
Adam Sellers and team said it showed that cold exposure could be an “alternative strategy for the treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes.”
Type 2 diabetes affects about 4 million people in the UK and 37 million in the US.
It occurs when the body doesn’t make enough insulin or the hormone it makes doesn’t work properly, leading to high blood sugar levels.
When people eat carbohydrates, the food is broken down into blood sugar.
This causes the glucose level to rise.
As a result, the pancreas begins to release insulin, which allows the body to use the glucose for energy.
But over time, high blood sugar levels can cause insulin resistance.
Because the insulin is not as effective at breaking down the sugars, it causes the body to produce more and more of it.
Ultimately, this leads to the pancreas becoming worn out, confusing the system and keeping blood sugar high.
Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to blindness and cause patients to amputate their limbs or go into a coma.
Previous research has shown that glucose is cleared faster when the body is cold because it activates fat stores to generate heat, which is done by burning excess calories stored internally.
It is for this very reason that some experts suggest that a cold bath or shower can help people who are trying to lose weight.
The latest study suggests that the rapid muscle contractions associated with shivering also help trigger a metabolic response in the same way.
But more research is needed to confirm the exact mechanism before it can ever be advised in humans.
Lead author Adam Sellers said: ‘This is an important first step in investigating the effect of shivering on health.
“Our findings are promising and may have important health implications, as shivering improved many cardiometabolic health outcomes associated with diseases such as type 2 diabetes.”
Experts presented the research as an abstract at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Stockholm, Sweden.
Shivering was measured with special devices placed on the skin that detect the electrical activity of the muscles, because not everyone can visibly show that they are trembling.