International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 83–89 | Cite as

Meteorology and the physical activity of the elderly: the Nakanojo Study

  • Fumiharu Togo
  • Eiji Watanabe
  • Hyuntae Park
  • Roy J. Shephard
  • Yukitoshi Aoyagi
Original Article

Abstract

Seasonal changes in ambient temperature and day length are thought to modify habitual physical activity. However, relationships between such environmental factors and the daily physical activity of older populations remain unclear. The present study thus examined associations between meteorological variables and the number of steps taken per day by elderly Japanese. Continuous pedometer counts over a 450-day period were collected from 41 healthy subjects (age 71±4 years), none of whom engaged in any specific occupational activity or exercise programs. An electronic physical activity monitor was attached to a belt worn on the left side of the body throughout the day. Daily values for mean ambient temperature, duration of bright sunshine, mean wind speed, mean relative humidity, and precipitation were obtained from local meteorological stations. The day length was calculated from times of sunrise and sunset. Based on the entire group of 41 subjects (ensemble average), a subject’s step count per day decreased exponentially with increasing precipitation (r2=0.19, P<0.05). On days when precipitation was <1 mm, the step count increased with the mean ambient temperature over the range of –2 to 17°C, but decreased over the range 17–29°C. The daily step count also tended to increase with day length, but the regression coefficient of determination attributable to step count and mean ambient temperature (r2=0.32, P<0.05) exceeded that linking the step count and day length (r2=0.13, P<0.05). The influence of other meteorological factors was small (r2≤0.03) and of little practical significance. On days when precipitation is <1 mm, physical activity is associated more strongly with ambient temperature than with day length, duration of bright sunshine, wind speed, or relative humidity. Our findings have practical implications for health promotion efforts designed to increase the physical activity of elderly people consistently in the face of seasonal variations in environmental conditions.

Keywords

Electronic pedometer Precipitation Ambient temperature Day length Step count 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the subjects whose participation made this investigation possible, and Suzuken. for manufacturing the electronic physical activity monitoring device used in the present study. This study was supported in part by a grant from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and was undertaken as part of the longitudinal interdisciplinary study on physical activity and health of the elderly in Nakanojo, Gunma, Japan (the Nakanojo Study)

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Copyright information

© ISB 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fumiharu Togo
    • 1
  • Eiji Watanabe
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hyuntae Park
    • 3
  • Roy J. Shephard
    • 4
  • Yukitoshi Aoyagi
    • 1
  1. 1.Exercise Sciences Research Group, Division of Physiology and AgingTokyo Metropolitan Institute of GerontologyTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Faculty of Human SciencesUniversity of Human Arts and SciencesSaitamaJapan
  3. 3.Graduate School of EducationUniversity of TokyoTokyoJapan
  4. 4.Faculty of Physical Education and HealthUniversity of TorontoOntarioCanada

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