Yes, You Do Exercise Less in the Heat

Yes, You Do Exercise Less in the Heat

Why you should care

Because maybe we’re looking at this American obesity thing all wrong. 

Overweight? It’s probably due, in part, to the weather.

You’re right: It is scientifically more difficult to work out when it’s hot out. Researchers found that the hotter the summer, the less likely people are to exercise, even after you consider all those diet and urban development factors. Which means it’s no coincidence that areas like South Texas, which see some of the highest temperatures in the nation, have some of the greatest obesity rates — even after accounting for things like diet and nutrition.

Maybe municipalities could build more pools instead of another outdoor exercise park.

So say researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, who crunched numbers for the whole nation, not just their own state.

The study crunched data from 3,100 American counties (and other areas) and conducted a telephone survey of more than 350,000 adults, tracking where adults 20 years and older had a BMI greater than 30.

And the cold, dark north doesn’t escape severe forecasts either. Those folks are also going to suffer more obesity and such. But winters like Minnesota’s weren’t as bad for your health as summers like Alabama’s — perhaps because snow sports have their own attractions, or perhaps because our metabolism sometimes speeds up in the cold (though these are broad speculations).

The authors wonder if some of the southern regions attract people who might tend toward obesity. Which means this might actually be a problem of geography, and not just diet. Maybe municipalities could build more pools instead of another outdoor exercise park, or make a point of planning jogging paths in shadier areas. Maybe incentives could encourage developers to create more indoor recreation areas in their next subdivision. So suggests Paul von Hippel, the lead author of the study, who himself knows exactly how bad it is to jog during a triple-digit Texas afternoon.



Numbers and factoids — fodder for your next cocktail party.