Effects of weather on physical activity among school children in Alberta, Canada

  • Author / Creator
    Rahman, Sholeh
  • Background: Physical activity in children is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and contributes to the prevention of childhood overweight and obesity. However, Canadian children are not physically active enough. Weather conditions may limit physical activity levels, but little is known about how Canadian weather conditions affect physical activity in children. Understanding the effect of weather attributes on physical activity is important to guide policies and programs, and design effective interventions for the promotion of physical activity in children and prevention of overweight and obesity. Purpose: This research investigated the effect of weather attributes on physical activity in school-aged children in Alberta, Canada. Methods: Between March to June 2013, grade 5 students (aged 10 to 11) from 60 schools in Alberta, Canada were invited to participate in this study. Physical activity was measured objectively using time-stamped pedometers (step counts per hour), over 9 consecutive days. Weather data, including daily actual temperature, feels-like temperature, maximum and minimum temperatures, cloud coverage, and daily precipitation were obtained from local weather stations in Alberta. Multi-level mixed-effect regression models were used to estimate the effect of each of the weather attributes on the step counts, adjusted for other covariates of interest in the study. All analyses were performed for the time frame between 7:00am to 9:00pm (waking hours). Results: 972 students and 5958 days of observation were included in the analyses. Physical activity data was considered to be valid if the pedometer was worn for a minimum of 8 hours/day and on at least two school days and one non-school day. Cloud coverage and precipitation resulted in a substantial decline in daily step counts; in un-stratified analysis, a unit increase in cloud coverage was associated with 61 fewer step counts/day (95% CI: -99, -22), and relative to no precipitation, light (0.01-5mm) and heavy (>5mm) precipitation resulted in 209 (95% CI: -535, 116) and 1022 (95% CI: -1557, -487) fewer step counts/day, respectively. Increase in mean ambient, daily maximum and daily minimum temperature were more likely to have a positive effect on physical activity, although the associations were not statistically significant. The associations between weather attributes and physical activity differed by gender, day of the week (school day vs. non-school day), time periods on a school day (before, during, and after school hours), and activity level of the students (more active vs. less active). Conclusions: These findings provide evidence that certain weather attributes can affect physical activity in children substantially, and should therefore be considered when evaluating physical activity levels or designing interventions to promote activity in children. In order to establish habitual physical activity at early ages, there is a need to design interventions and strategies for promotion of physical activity for suboptimal weather conditions. Results further justify a need for school policies and programs to focus on developing alternative activity opportunities to prevent a transient decline in physical activity levels when the weather is not favorable for outdoor activities.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • School of Public Health
  • Specialization
    • Epidemiology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Dr. Paul Veugelers, School of Public Health
    • Dr. Katerina Maximova, School of Public Health
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Dr. Gian Jhangri, School of Public Health
    • Dr.Valerie Carson, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation