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Weather and children's physical activity; how and why do relationships vary between countries?

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Goodman, A 
Van Sluijs, EMF 
Andersen, LB 
Cardon, G 


Background: Globally most children do not engage in enough physical activity. Day length and weather conditions have been identified as determinants of physical activity, although how they may be overcome as barriers is not clear. We aim to examine if and how relationships between children’s physical activity and weather and day length vary between countries and identify settings in which children were better able to maintain activity levels given the weather conditions they experienced. Methods: In this repeated measures study, we used data from 23,451 participants in the International Children’s Accelerometry Database (ICAD). Daily accelerometer-measured physical activity (counts per minute; cpm) was matched to local weather conditions and the relationships assessed using multilevel regression models. Multilevel models accounted for clustering of days within occasions within children within study-cities, and allowed us to explore if and how the relationships between weather variables and physical activity differ by setting. Results: Increased precipitation and wind speed were associated with decreased cpm while better visibility and more hours of daylight were associated with increased cpm. Models indicated that increases in these variables resulted in average changes in mean cpm of 7.6/h of day length, −13.2/cm precipitation, 10.3/10 km visibility and −10.3/10kph wind speed (all p < 0.01). Temperature showed a cubic relationship with cpm, although between 0 and 20 degrees C the relationship was broadly linear. Age showed interactions with temperature and precipitation, with the associations larger among younger children. In terms of geographic trends, participants from Northern European countries and Melbourne, Australia were the most active, and also better maintained their activity levels given the weather conditions they experienced compared to those in the US and Western Europe. Conclusions: We found variation in the relationship between weather conditions and physical activity between ICAD studies and settings. Children in Northern Europe and Melbourne, Australia were not only more active on average, but also more active given the weather conditions they experienced. Future work should consider strategies to mitigate the impacts of weather conditions, especially among young children, and interventions involving changes to the physical environment should consider how they will operate in different weather conditions.



ICAD, child, adolescent, physical activity, season

Journal Title

International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity

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BioMed Central
Wellcome Trust (087636/Z/08/Z)
Economic and Social Research Council (ES/G007462/1)
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12015/7)
Medical Research Council (MR/K023187/1)
Medical Research Council (G0701877)
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12015/3)
Medical Research Council (MC_U106179473)
The pooling of the data was funded through a grant from the National Prevention Research Initiative (Grant Number: G0701877) ( The funding partners relevant to this award are: British Heart Foundation; Cancer Research UK; Department of Health; Diabetes UK; Economic and Social Research Council; Medical Research Council; Research and Development Office for the Northern Ireland Health and Social Services; Chief Scientist Office; Scottish Executive Health Department; The Stroke Association; Welsh Assembly Government and World Cancer Research Fund. This work was additionally supported by the Medical Research Council [MC_UU_12015/3; MC_UU_12015/7], Bristol University, Loughborough University and Norwegian School of Sport Sciences. We also gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Professor Chris Riddoch, Professor Ken Judge and Dr. Pippa Griew to the development of ICAD. The UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust (Grant ref.: 102,215/2/13/2) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. The CLAN study was funded by Financial Markets Foundation for Children (baseline); follow-ups were funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (274309). The HEAPS study was funded by VicHealth (baseline); follow-ups were funded by the Australian Research Council (DP0664206). The work of Flo Harrison and Esther M F van Sluijs was supported, wholly or in part, by the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence (RES-590-28-0002). Funding from the British Heart Foundation, Department of Health, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, and the Wellcome Trust, under the auspices of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, is gratefully acknowledged. The work of Esther MF van Sluijs was supported by the Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12015/7). Anna Goodman’s contribution was supported by an National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) post-doctoral fellowship (PDF-2010-03-130). Anna Timperio’s contribution was supported by a National Heart Foundation of Australia Future Leader Fellowship (Award 10,046). The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of any study funders.