5 Cool Things Your Body Can Do
One of life’s greatest mysteries may in fact be the true potential of what’s under our skin. You push your body at the gym, fuel it at meal time, and, because you take it everywhere you go, you may even start to think you know what it’s capable of. But if you stand in a blizzard naked, could you survive? Do you have the ability to recall Pi to the furthest known digit? Your instinct is probably to say “no” to both questions, in which case, you have a lot to learn: Your body and mind are capable of things you’ve never even thought to try. 1. Your mind can keep you warm while naked in freezing temperatures. There’s a renowned group of Tibetan monks who allegedly can dry wet sheets wrapped around their bare bodies in sub-zero weather just by meditating and raising their core temperature. In 2013, a team of scientists put this idea to the test: Researchers taught Western non-meditators Forceful Breath—specific breathing techniques that involve visualizing flames in specific parts of the body. While they couldn’t dry wet sheets on their backs—such a feat would require lots of practice, after all—the Westerners were able to regulate their body temperature a bit. This meditation type initiates thermogenesis, or heat production, while inhibiting your body’s natural cooling mechanisms, like sweat and widening of the blood vessels, explains study author Maria Kozhevnikov, Ph.D. 2. Your joints can predict the weather. Grandparents have been saying it for years: When their knees and hips ache, there’s a storm brewing. The Weather Channel even has an Aches & Pains forecast. And while the truth of this lore is still widely debated among doctors, many studies have shown a connection among a flare-up in joint diseases, like arthritis, and the weather and temperature. For example, a study from Tufts University found that for every 10 degrees the temperature dropped, the more participants reported osteoarthritic knee pain. Why? The researchers point to evidence that barometric pressure helps to stabilize and mobilize the hip joint, so a change in one would mean a change in the other. They also speculate that a drop in temperature could alter the thickness of synovial fluid, which keeps your joints lubricated. 3. You can channel superhuman strength to lift cars and boulders. Like the Florida firefighter who lifted a Chevy Blazer a foot off the ground to save the driver trapped underneath, we all have the potential to become The Hulk. “During any strength event, you always have inhibition surging from the brain to not overstimulate the muscles, which helps prevent injury,” says Men’s Health Exercise Science advisor David Pearson, Ph.D “However, extreme stress appears to limit inhibition with hyper-excitation, resulting in superhuman strength.” And while we’ve all heard stories of herculean brawn in desperate times, scientists don’t know much more about why because, as Pearson points out, it’s difficult to initiate the circumstances in a laboratory. Interestingly, he adds, in documented instances of these events, the individual is rarely hurt. 4. Your mind can remember anything. Photographic memory is now considered to be more of a myth, but there is a condition called Hyperthymesia that allows people to recall everything that’s happened in their life in immense detail. (Actress Marilu Henner is famous for having it.) And while some people are predisposed to a superior recollection, most scientists believe someone with an average brain can supercharge it just by improving the way they store and retrieve information, with tricks like mnemonic or encoding techniques. Case in point: Joshua Foer, a journalist with a perfectly normal memory, embarked on a year of training to compete in the 2006 USA Memory Championship—and ended up winning the whole thing, even setting a record for fastest memorization of a deck of cards. 5. Your heart can tell the future. It may not know the winning lottery numbers, but if you hold the right ticket, your body will show signs a few seconds before your mind finds out. In a 2012 study analysis in Frontiers of Perception, researchers found that when people were shown stimulating and neutral images in random order, their heart rate quickened up to 10 seconds before seeing the exciting ones, but not prior to the dull image—even though they didn't know which one it'd be. And while this suggests you can subconsciously sense when something thrilling or disturbing is about to happen, researchers don’t really know why it happens.