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


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.


Electronic pedometer Precipitation Ambient temperature Day length Step count 



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)


  1. Aoyagi Y, McLellan TM, Shephard RJ (1997) Interactions of physical training and heat acclimation. The thermophysiology of exercising in a hot climate. Sports Med 23:173–210PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bergstralh E, Sinaki M, Offord K, Wahner HW, Melton LJ 3rd (1990) Effect of season on physical activity score, back extensor muscle strength, and lumbar bone mineral density. J Bone Miner Res 5:371–377Google Scholar
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1997) Monthly estimates of leisure time physical inactivity - United States 1994. Morb Morta Week Rep 46:393–397Google Scholar
  4. Daan S, Aschoff J (1975) Circadian rhythms of locomotor activity in captive birds and mammals: their variations with season and latitude. Oecologia 18:269–316Google Scholar
  5. DiPietro L (2001) Physical activity in aging: changes in patterns and their relationship to health and function. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 56:13–22Google Scholar
  6. Figala J, Tester JR (1986) Comparison of seasonal rhythms of grey squirrels (Scuirus caroliensis, Rodentia) in captivity and in the wild. Vestn Cesk Spol Zool 50:33–48Google Scholar
  7. Gordon CJ (1987) Relationship between preferred ambient temperature and autonomic thermoregulatory function in rat. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 252:R1130–R1137Google Scholar
  8. Haggerty P, McNeil G, Manneh MK, Davidson L, Mihe E, Duncan G, Ashton J (1994) The influence of exercise on the energy requirements of adult males in the UK. Br J Nutr 72:799–813Google Scholar
  9. Heldmaier G, Steinlechner S (1981) Seasonal pattern and energetics of short daily torpor in the Djungarian hamster, Phodopus sungorus. Oecologia 48:265–270Google Scholar
  10. Magnus K, Matroos A, Strackee J (1979) Walking, cycling, or gardening, with or without seasonal interruption, in relation to acute coronary events. Am J Epidemiol 110:724–733Google Scholar
  11. Mann GV, Garrett HL, Farhi A, Murray H, Billings FT (1969) Exercise to prevent coronary heart disease. An experimental study of the effects of training on risk factors for coronary disease in men. Am J Med 46:12–27Google Scholar
  12. Maskrey M, Wiggins PR, Frappell PB (2001) Behavioral thermoregulation in obese and lean Zucker rats in a thermal gradient. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 281:R1675–R1680PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Matthews CE, Freedson PS, Hebert JR, Stanek EJ 3rd, Merriam PA, Rosal MC, Ebbeling CB, Ockene IS (2001) Seasonal variation in household, occupational, and leisure time physical activity: longitudinal analyses from the seasonal variation of blood cholesterol study. Am J Epidemiol 153:172–183Google Scholar
  14. Mount LE, Willmott JV (1967) The relation between spontaneous activity, metabolic rate and the 24 hour cycle in mice at different environmental temperatures. J Physiol (Lond) 190:371–380Google Scholar
  15. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (1996) Patterns and trends in physical activity. In: Physical activity and health: a report of the Surgeon General. Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Ga., pp 173–208Google Scholar
  16. Pell JP, Cobbe SM (1999) Seasonal variations in coronary heart disease. QJM 92:689–696Google Scholar
  17. Qiu D, Tanihara T, Aoyama H, Fujita T, Inaba Y, Minowa M (2002) Relationship between a high mortality rate and extreme heat during the summer of 1999 in Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan. J Epidemiol 12:254–257Google Scholar
  18. Ruf T, Klingenspor M, Preis H, Heldmaier G (1991) Daily torpor in the Djungarian hamster (Phodopus sungorus): interactions with food intake, activity and social behavior. J Comp Phyiol B 160:609–615Google Scholar
  19. Schneider PL, Crouter SE, Lukajic O, Bassett DR Jr (2003) Accuracy and reliability of 10 pedometers for measuring steps over a 400-m walk. Med Sci Sports Exerc 35:1779–1784Google Scholar
  20. Shephard RJ (1997) Physical activity and health in older people. In: Aging, Physical Activity and Health. Human Kinetics, Champaign, pp 199–324Google Scholar
  21. Tannenaum MG, Pivorun EB (1984) Differences in daily torpor patterns among three southwestern species of Peromyscus. J Comp Physiol B154:233–236Google Scholar
  22. Tester JR (1987) Changes in daily rhythms of some free-ranging animals in Minnesota. Can Field Nat 101:13–21Google Scholar
  23. Trost SG, Owen N, Bauman AE, Sallis JF, Brown W (2002) Correlates of adults’ participation in physical activity: review and update. Med Sci Sports Exerc 34:1996–2001Google Scholar
  24. Tudor-Locke C, Bassett DR Jr (2004) How many steps/day are enough? Preliminary pedometer indices for public health. Sports Med 34:1–8Google Scholar
  25. Tudor-Locke C, Bassett DR, Swartz AM, Strath SJ, Parr BB, Reis JP, Dubose KD, Ainsworth BE (2004) A preliminary study of one year of pedometer self-monitoring. Ann Behav Med 28:158–162Google Scholar
  26. Tudor-Locke C, Williams JE, Reis JP, Pluto D (2002) Utility of pedometers for assessing physical activity: convergent validity. Sports Med 32:795–808Google Scholar
  27. Uitenbroek DG (1993) Seasonal variation in leisure time physical activity. Med Sci Sports Exerc 25:755–760Google Scholar
  28. van Staveren W, Deurenberg P, Burema J, De Groot LC, Hautvast JG (1986) Seasonal variation in food intake, pattern of physical activity and changes in body weight in a group of young adult Dutch women consuming self-selected diets. Int J Obes 10:133–145Google Scholar
  29. Wunder BA (1975) A model for estimating metabolic rate of active or resting mammals. J Theor Biol 49:345–354Google Scholar
  30. Wyatt HR, Peters JC, Reed WG, Barry M, Hill JO (2005) A Colorado statewide survey of walking and its relation to excessive weight. Med Sci Sports Exerc 37:724–730Google Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations