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Too Hot to Work Out? Hotter Climates Increase Risk of Sedentary Behavior

First Posted: Jun 30, 2014 12:46 PM EDT

Could hot weather impact the amount of exercise you participate in?

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that people in hotter, more humid climates are more prone to obesity. Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin blame warmer temperatures for an increase in sedentary behaviors that promote weight gain.

For their research, the study authors grouped a map consisting of areas with extreme temperatures, ranging from scorching hot summers to ice-cold winters.

The study map revealed that those in Southeast counties were typically more sedentary than those in other areas, potentially due to mountainous weather, such as cool and dry summers that can lead residents to be less active.

"Living in Texas as I do, the results really resonated for me," said Paul von Hippel, an assistant professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, in a news release.

Researchers believe that for those living in warmer areas, it might be best to jog early in the mornings or start participating in indoor physical activities.

"Some planners are more thoughtful about that than others," he said. "A great example of thoughtful planning is the hike-and-bike trail along Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas. It's shady, it's next to water and it attracts thousands of walkers, runners and bikers on the hottest summer days."

However, extreme climate is not the only thing to influence weight-related issues. Demographics as well as area facilities may also determine the likelihood of certain health issues.

"In a sense, the importance of weather is obvious, but we looked at some other 'obvious' things, and they didn't pan out," von Hippel added. "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. But it turns out that terrain matters very little for activity or obesity. In some mountainous areas, like Colorado, people are very active, but in others, such as West Virginia, they aren't."

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