Fit City: UT Austin study links heat and humidity to obesity

Fit City: UT Austin study links heat and humidity to obesity

(TYLER) - If you struggle in the summer with exercising because the heat and humidity are just too much, you're not alone.  A new study out of the University of Texas at Austin is now linking obesity to temperature and humidity.

When researchers crunched the numbers from every county in the U.S., they found adults who live in counties where it's really hot and humid are less physically active and subsequently more obese.  Just the thought of jogging outside, almost makes us break a sweat in the July heat. That's why researchers tell me strategy is important for staying active in the summer, but it is possible.

East Texas summers aren't just hot, they can be dangerous, especially if you're working out in the heat of the day.

"The hottest part of the day is about 4-6 p.m. and it is just not an attractive part of the day to exercise. So a lot of people cut it out and so you have to think about what you are going to do," says Paul von Hippel, an assistant professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. 

Will you wake up early to run outside or will you switch to a cooler activity like swimming outdoors? Paul von Hippel wrote the study. He's an assistant professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. He says there are other influences on obesity like demographics, sprawl, restaurants and parks. The study controlled for all of that, but summer heat and humidity still mattered.

"In a place that is hot and muggy in the summer, you have to consider whether there is shade available, whether there is water nearby, so a place like Tyler State Park, for example, where you have a nice shady forest and a little pond will be a great example of a place that is accessible to the public and allows people to be active on a hot summer day," says von Hippel.

"You can't tell it is hot. It has been so windy and nice," says Robin Pilette.  Robin Pilette brought her boys out to Tyler State Park for some swimming, hiking and outdoor fun.  "As long as they are outside they are happy.  They need to be out and moving, so they are not stuck inside playing videos and eating," says Pilette.

Another way you can stay cool, burn some calories and have some fun is paddle-boating at Tyler State Park.

The American Heritage girls are tapping into a new way to keep moving and enjoy Tyler State Park's trails.  "We started out this morning about 8:30 a.m. geocaching. It is a way to get girls to hike with a purpose. You tell them they are going on a treasure hunt than just hiking and they will hike for hours without realizing they are hiking," says Angelia Malloy.

Angelia Malloy has an app on her phone that guides them.  "You find the geocache, some just have a log where you sign your name, but most what gets the kids hooked is they have a treasure box," says Malloy.

A 3 mile hike to find a geocache turns into a great workout. Park Superintendent Paul Harris says you can hike or bike the trails.  "They are very shaded. None of our trail system has any open canopy . They are covered in shade. It helps keep you cooler," says Harris.

Researchers at UT Austin hope county and city developers and planners will take the heat and humidity into consideration to encourage more physical activity.

It's hard to imagine right now, but researcher also found people were less active and more obese in places where winters are especially cold, cloudy and dark.  The new study on heat and humidity appears in the American Journal of Public Health.

If you're looking for more information on Tyler State Park-- click here


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