Don't blame heat for not staying fit
September 3, 2010
by Bill Cullins
San Angelo Standard-Times
SAN ANGELO, Texas — Have you ever thought about the impact that weather has on fitness? Is it just a coincidence that the Southern states have higher obesity rates, or is there a direct relationship between warm climates and lower levels of fitness?
Recently published data indicate that states in the South and Southeast have the highest percentages of obesity, with Mississippi topping the list at 33.8 percent. Texas isn’t far from the top on the “bad” list — our state is ranked 13th with 29 percent obese. More importantly, we moved 1.1 percent in the wrong direction during the past year.
Back to the original question: Does living in a warm climate affect fitness and obesity?
To help answer these questions, I visited with Dr. Steve Lyons, the new meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in San Angelo. For those of you who haven’t met Steve, he’s the former hurricane expert from the Weather Channel, a 30-year veteran of weather forecasting and research, and a very fit 56-year-old athlete.
His athletic résumé includes being a former national (and almost Olympic) class runner at distances such as 800 and 1,500 meters, and running marathon times in the 2:35 range (that’s fast).
He’s also a good cyclist, who — despite being only four years away from turning 60 — can keep pace with the fast local riders. Apparently, living in a warm and humid area (Atlanta) didn’t keep him from staying fit.
When asked if he felt that climate played a significant role in supporting (or negating) a healthy lifestyle, Lyons responded, “No, I don’t think so. My feeling is that the culture in various states or regions is the most important factor in determining why people do or do not exercise.”
Does that mean that our Southern culture revolves more around beer and barbecue than Gatorade and energy gels? Or do we just move like we talk — at a slower pace that burns fewer calories?
Based on the 2010 obesity data, Colorado ranked as the leanest state (lowest percentage of obesity). While some might suggest that the cooler summer weather in that area is a major factor, the reverse is true during the winter. Snow, ice, and cold weather are, for many people, bigger “exercise barriers” than hot summer days are to San Angelo residents.
Believe me when I say it’s easier to go for a workout in 100-degree weather than it is when the temperature is 10 degrees and the wind chill is below zero. Been there, done that.
Weather data shows that, on average, San Angelo is about 5 degrees warmer in July (95 vs. 90) and 7 degrees hotter in August (94 vs. 87) than Denver. We might also note the record low temperature in Denver that occurred in 1963 (a chilly 32 degrees below zero). Our blue northers just don’t match up to Colorado’s winter conditions.
Since we can’t blame the weather, we’re back to the culture issue. It’s simple — we have to put more effort into developing a culture of fitness and wellness here in San Angelo and the rest of Texas. Doing that successfully means that we must plan, implement and manage a broad-based collaborative effort that permeates all sectors of our community.
The Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Foundation released a report in 2009 that highlighted the obesity problem and suggested some clear recommendations. Here’s what they said:
* All adults and children should have access to nutritional and obesity counseling.
* Develop programs to make healthy foods affordable and accessible to all Americans.
* Develop programs to provide safe and healthy places for individuals to engage in exercise activities.
* Encourage wellness programs in work locations.
Ride on, San Angelo, and remember — you can’t blame the weather. Go exercise!
Bill Cullins is a competitive cyclist and slow runner, a two-time state Masters cyclocross champion and the publisher of the Team San Angelo blog at http://bcullins.blogspot.com/. His column appears every Saturday. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sept. 4: Hot Dog Run, www.roadlizards.org/Upcoming%20Races/HOTDOGRUN_Flyer_Sep_2010.pdf
Sept. 11: Burma Road Time Trial, http://www.sanangelobicycleassociation.com/
Sept. 11: Run to Remember, roadlizards.org/Upcoming%20Races/Run_to_Remember_Flyer_Sep_2010.jpg
Sept 15: Annual meeting, San Angelo Bicycle association, http://www.sanangelobicycleassociation.com/
Sept. 18-19: Fort Davis Cyclefest, www.active.com/cycling/fort-davis-tx/fort-davis-cyclefest-tour-2010
Oct. 9-10: Texas Cycling Championships, http://www.txbra.org/
Oct. 16-17: Season Opener, Texas Cup cyclocross series, http://www.txbra.org/
Oct. 30: Six Hour Mountain Bike Race, http://www.sanangelobicycleassociation.com/
View the full story (some sites require registration)