UT Study Shows Link Between Climate and Obesity

Can’t bear to drag yourself to the gym in today’s 91-degree Central Texas heat? There’s now scientific validation for that age-old excuse. According to a UT study released this week, people in hot, humid regions exercise less and are more likely to be obese. The flipside is also true: Residents of areas with cold, long winters are less active and more obese as well.

Those findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, might sound a bit obvious. But lead author and LBJ School of Public Affairs researcher Paul von Hippel says that’s not so. The study controlled for many other factors that could influence activity, such as urban sprawl, the density of things like parks and restaurants, and geography. “We looked at some other ‘obvious’ things, and they didn’t pan out,” said von Hippel in a release. “For example, going in we knew that Coloradans were exceptionally thin and active, so we expected to find that hills and mountains encourage physical activity.” Instead, von Hippel found no link between mountains and activity. Coloradoans are far more active than West Virginians, even though both states are mountainous.

Von Hippel is hoping city developers will factor his data into urban planning. He cited Austin’s bike lanes as an example of planning that encourages activity, but doesn’t always work out. “You’ve got to think about what citizens are going to be willing to do in the summer,” von Hippel told KUT. “Just painting a stripe on some hot asphalt and thinking that people are going to use it for biking, it may not be realistic. It might work in February. It might not work in July.”

See U.S. maps of von Hippel’s study on weather, activity, and obesity here.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath.


Tags: , , , ,