Why aren’t we capturing weather variation in active living research?

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Today’s post comes from Dr. Tarun Katapally. You can find more on Dr. Katapally at the bottom of this post.

We all seem to understand and experience the impact of weather on our movement patterns, yet most active living research is conducted without taking weather variation into account. In temperate climatic zones, and especially in Canada, we experience a wide variation in seasonal weather – not to mention adverse weather within seasons. Yet, in understanding the role of different contexts (i.e., urban design and neighbourhood built environment, school, home and recreational environment) in facilitating active living, weather seems to be ignored consistently.

It is true that we have no control over weather patterns. However, we do have the capacity to inform and influence policies that drive the environmental factors in our neighbourhoods, work places and schools. Individuals living in some neighbourhoods might have more access and amenities that may enable them to counter adverse weather and be active in all weather conditions. The same rationale applies to work places, schools or any other environmental context we are exposed to everyday. In informing policymakers, why aren’t we including weather variation in our analyses so that we can understand what physical and social environmental factors moderate the impact of adverse weather?

In Canada, time-stamped weather data are readily available through Environment Canada and this data could be easily linked with either accelerometry or self-report data. We appreciate that most accelerometry data are cross-sectional and hence, we have developed a methodology to link this cross-sectional data with weather data to study the influence urban design and built environment on children’s moderate to vigorous physical activity. This study has now been published in BMJ Open: bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/11/e009045.full?keytype=ref&ijkey=3i5wwwyzlgy2cS2

Moreover, the article describing the methodology of the data linkage has itself been accepted for publication in the Canadian Journal of Public Health and will be available in early 2016. The methods used to capture weather variation and link weather data with accelerometry data could not only be replicated, but also modified or adapted. More importantly, researchers could easily adopt the overall approach of taking weather into account in active living research. We hope that weather variation, a perennial factor that interacts with all other environmental variables to influence active living, is not ignored in generating and translating knowledge to policymakers.

tarun-katapally Dr. Katapally is a medical doctor trained in India and a population health policy researcher. He is currently a faculty member at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy that is based at the Universities of Regina and Saskatchewan. He is also an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan. Dr. Katapally’s expertise is in the employment of advanced mixed-methods and complex analytical techniques to understand the influence of policy and policy-driven social and physical contexts on the influence of children’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour.

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