How May Climate Change Affect the PA Guidelines in the Future? – April 20, 2022
April 20, 2022
Just in time for Earth Day 2022, Dr. Nicholas Beresic will present, “How May Climate Change Affect the PA Guidelines in the Future?”
Dr. Nicholas Beresic is the Director of Communications of the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance in Chapel Hill, NC. He is a Certified Health Educator Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer with 15+ years of experience in the health & wellness industry. Dr. Beresic has worked with clients in a variety of settings, including non-profit, commercial, corporate, higher education, and medical facilities. His specialties include social marketing, ergonomics, worksite wellness, and mentoring the next generation of health educators.
Lunch & Learn Recording & Transcript
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April 20, 2022
Title: How Might Climate Change Affect the Physical Activity Guidelines in The Future?
Presenter: Dr. Nicholas Beresic Ed.D.
Director of Communications, Osteoarthritis Action Alliance
Hello, and welcome to the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance Lunch and Learn webinar for April 20th, 2022. Our presenter today is Dr Nicholas Beresic, Director of Communications for the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance. He is a Certified Health Education Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer with over 15 years of experience in the health and wellness industry. Dr. Beresic has worked with clients in a variety of settings including in nonprofit, commercial, corporate, higher education, and medical facilities. His specialties include social marketing, ergonomics, work site wellness, and mentoring the next generation of health educators. Dr. Beresic’ s presentation today is titled: How Might Climate Change Affect the Physical Activity Guidelines in The Future?
Thank you, Katie, I really appreciate it.
Hello everyone, I’m a little scruffy today I lost my voice over the weekend, but we will get through this together. If you have any questions, please put them into the chat I’d be more than happy to answer them. Now I’d like to take a second to thank The OA Action Alliance for allowing me the opportunity to present on a topic which is a little different from what you’re used to hearing during this monthly webinar.
For a little bit of backstory: last year, I attended the SOPHE National Conference, and in between sessions I attended a breakout session, led by SOPHE’s environmental health community of practice, and they were trying to recruit more individuals to join their group. So, since I liked the energy of the co-leader of the group, I told them sure I would love to join the group. Fast forward a few weeks later, and I attended my first online meeting of the group. During this meeting, we collectively decided we wanted to complete a research study to try to bring more attention to the issue of climate change.
I volunteered to take the lead on this initiative and I’m proud to share I presented the findings at the 2022 SOPHE National Conference which took place about a month ago.
Today’s presentation is an extended version of the poster presentation I gave during this conference, but I have to make note this was a group project completed by several members of our community of practice. I also have to admit I’m still relatively new to the science of climate change, but what I do knows the fitness industry. I’ve been a Certified Personal Trainer since early 2000, plus I’ve worked in a variety of fitness related rolls over the past 15-20 years.
So, I thought it’d be interesting to see how climate change may impact outdoor exercise enthusiasts like myself 20 years from now, when I’m hoping to start my plans for retirement. So, based on this knowledge, the title of this presentation is called How Might Climate Change Affect the Physical Activity Guidelines in The Future? For those unfamiliar, research assumes climate change is projected to increase the number of days that outdoor temperatures reached 90 degrees or above. This increase has the potential to make outdoor physical activity even more difficult for many, especially those affected by health inequities. You might be thinking: Well, why don’t you just exercise indoors to beat the heat?
But, unfortunately, not everyone has the disposable income to join a Fitness Center or to purchase a Peloton Bike and stream classes, or even to purchase an air conditioner. Remember hot humid weather is that barrier to exercise for many individuals, and fi you add in a lack of green spaces, unsafe neighborhoods, missing sidewalks, and underlying health issues to the mix you can see how this may be a real struggle to reach the Physical Activity Guidelines so let’s take a little bit of a closer look at these guidelines.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans note that adults attempting to lose and keep off a significant amount of weight may need to be physically active over 300 minutes per week. This breaks down to approximately 43 minutes per day, which is achievable, but how may climate change effect this recommendation? Well, the NHS position statement on exceptional key illnesses state that in an outdoor temperature of 90 degrees, which we know will be occurring more frequently in the future, a maximum of 40 minutes of outdoor exercise should be completed. So, based on this comparison it’s starting to become apparent that certain locations in our country may be more or less accommodating outdoor exercise in the future. This leads us to the purpose of the study, where we start to determine whether our cities’ walk score, which is a measure of walkability in a given area, accurately reflects the potential ability to be physically active outdoors 20 years from now, based on a projected worst case (climate change) model.
To complete this task, first we identified a unique metric for each of the 106 largest cities in the continental United States which incorporates both walks score and projected increases in temperature of 90 degrees between 2021 and 2041. Once that we listed that 10 us cities that yield the greatest relative increase and decrease in metric ranking as compared to walk score. First, we’ll discuss the cities which produce the highest metric for the unfamiliar walk scores, a proprietary calculation expressed as a number between zero and 100 that measures the walkability location…so the higher the number, the better.
So, remember this is inevitably going to happen during the climate change. If you divide a city’s walk score by this difference in increase, you come up with our unique metric for this study and the higher the metric, the better. I’ll pause here, so you can just get a quick look because there are a lot of numbers on the screen right now.
When interpreting this table, the first observation we see is that those cities with a higher metrics are generally located in Upper two thirds of the west coast and the upper northeast corner of the US. But even this can be deceiving if you take last year’s heat into consideration…we know that cities like San Francisco and Seattle have some of the highest income inequalities in the nation. So, might adding a large influx of new people to these highly walkable cities further exasperate income inequality or maybe we will see more frequent wildfires due to climate change, making the air quality to exercise outdoors? I don’t know, but it really makes you wonder.
As for the other coast, the east coast. When I think of Buffalo and Boston I picture winter sports, but if there’s less snow due to climate change, hopefully, some other form of outdoor activity or a new sport which isn’t traditionally played in this geographic area will pop up and the country will fill the void. Next, we’ll discuss the cities, which produced the lowest metric and I have to admit I was a little shocked and dismayed by this finding. Once again, I’m going to pause it so you can kind of take a quick little look at this table.
As you can see, North Carolina and those major cities located rather close in North Carolina appear to be a poor choice for outdoor exercise enthusiasts 20 years are now. I bought a house in North Carolina yes, we have some great greenways, by next year 20 to 25 days of 90-degree weather doesn’t really encourage me to use that type of transportation. In terms of physical activity and exercise I’ve witnessed, time and time again that the masses tend to prefer the fastest, easiest, cheapest option and, unfortunately, using our current greenway system is definitely not any of these four things.
First, it’s not the fastest option, driving a car is the fastest option. Second, it’s not the easiest option, due to the missing links between green ways, the danger of streetcar crossings, and the great distances one needs to travel on either bike or foot to get from the suburbs that urban centers. And third, walking is definitely cheaper than driving, but then again if there’s an extra 20 to 25 days and 90-degree weather, how motivated, are you going to be to go on a walk in the hot summer months?
Now we’re going to discuss the second objective of the study. We did the same calculations here as we did in the other table that we just saw, only this time we compared general rankings. Basically, we changed the data set from an interval scale to normal scale, and this was done to try to produce some additional insights from the data. When interpreting this table, our first observation we see is those cities with a higher metrics are generally located in some of the hottest areas of the country, including Arizona, Texas and Las Vegas. Any city is already less walkable during the summer months, due to the urban heat island effect, so I can see how adding more 90-degree days encourages more outdoor exercise.
Exercising at night or in the early morning is a potential way to get around this dilemma. But the residents who are afraid of crime are not going to risk their lives to squeeze in some extra steps. Maybe new coalition crime prevention advocates, neighborhood walkers, and bike riders, and health educators will start a pop up in the cities, which I think sounds like a pretty cool domain.
And finally, we’ll discuss the cities, which produced the lowest metric, and that includes some of the largest urban areas in the country. These large cities have a wide assortment of parks, sidewalks, and bike lanes…but let’s remember, the purpose of this study was to determine that potential ability to be physically active outdoors 20 years from now. With climate change comes rising sea levels and stronger storms. So, unfortunately, the parks sidewalks and bike lanes located close to water may flood more often, or worst-case scenario, stay underwater. If you’re an outdoor exercise enthusiast and your favorite parks and trails are gone plus it’s too hot to walk the sidewalks due to the urban heat island effect we previously mentioned, I think you might want to move somewhere else. In conclusion, I hope this presentation open your eyes a little to how climate change may affect and influence the Physical Activity Guidelines 20 years from now.
Maybe future editions of the guidelines will delineate between indoor exercise versus outdoor exercise, rather than just making a blanket statement that X number of minutes of exercise is recommended. Or, maybe the guidelines in the future will take more of a regional approach. In the least, my hope is that the discussion of exercise and hot agreement environments is mentioned in more than just one tiny paragraph of a 118-page document, as is in the current guidelines.
So, time will tell, but what we do know is certain factors of the current Physical Activity Guidelines are more attainable in hard environments, such as exercising in the early morning on very hot and humid days. But, as we saw in this study, this may be easier said than done 20 years from now and in certain areas of the country, due to the ill effects of climate change. Yes, some socially and economically disadvantaged communities may not encounter increased barriers to outdoor fiscal activity, but unfortunately, they still may face additional health inequities due to climate change.
Thank you very much, if you have any questions I’d love to discuss.
QUESTION AND ANSWER:
Katie Huffman: Thank you, Nick thanks for that information, it is an interesting topic and definitely one that it’s good to bring to light, especially now that we are two days away from Earth Day, which is Friday April 22nd. So, thanks for sharing that information with us!
Question: I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how climate change might affect individuals with us to arthritis and their ability to be physically active.
Answer: (Nick Beresic) Absolutely I didn’t explicitly mention osteoarthritis in this talk, but one of the major things that we promote at the OA Action Alliance is walking outdoor walking as far as the Walk With Ease program. And I wanted to show, through his presentation this may be easier said than done. If you are not good in very hot weather which a lot of individuals aren’t, they prefer to be in the cool or they just cannot regulate their body temperatures as easily and hot whether they’re going to tend to stay inside and, yes, you can exercise inside. But not everyone can, if you live in a smaller unit. You can’t necessarily do it or it’s more difficult to do, especially with walking if you have to take the stairs maybe some people can’t take the stairs to go up and down, so they just tend to stay home, I just wanted to show this presentation that. and asking people to go on a walk, especially if you have bad knees, or about hip. I’m not sure barrier might be in the way that barrier being climate change.
Katie Huffman: That’s a good point, and I think for organizations that offer these programs it’s important to think about this, as we you know, put together future programming and making sure that we are providing creative suggestions for people to help them get their physical activity indoors or done in a safer way if they do have to exercise outdoors. So, thank you for shedding light on that. If anyone else has a question for Nick feel free to write it in the chat box.
Question: I did have another question for you, Nick.
Do you have any idea what are, how population density might affect the results in your study?
Answer: (Nicholas Beresic) That was one of the questions we had in our community of practice when we were putting this study together: How does density show up, how is it represented in our study? And I have to point out it’s definitely a limitation…we are comparing New York City to Charlotte…we are comparing Los Angeles to Birmingham, Alabama…and it’s just the data we have available to us. I would like to believe walk score incorporates city density into that but, since it’s a primary metric I do not know the specifics on what it is based off of, that’s not released to the public. But regardless there are definitely similarities between urban areas which I feel that our study showed are transferable between.
Question: So, it’s interesting about the walkability school score, do you know, do you know anything that goes into that, like some of like it has to do with green spaces and parks, or sidewalks…Do you know what types of components are included in that score?
Answer: (Nick Beresic) It has all those included in it it’s how easy it is it’s a measure of walkability how easy it is to potentially walk to a park to walk to the grocery store to walk to a doctor’s office so urban areas tend to have a higher walkability score than suburban areas or rural areas.
Katie Huffman: That makes sense. If anybody else has a has a question or has a comment, feel free to type it into the chat.
Question: Nick a very interesting work, are there any predicted variations in physical activity patterns across the world, as we anticipate climate change? Example: will the northern winter sport countries become more summer sport countries?
Answer: Nicholas Beresic: I didn’t look outside the United States, but I can’t see how it wouldn’t affect other places. That’s one of the things I mentioned. Our data showed that the upper two thirds of the West Coast, so basically from San Francisco north to Seattle and the upper northeast corner of our country seems to be the most receptive it seemed to have the highest metric of what we did, which basically means it’s very walkable today. And the number of predicted increases in days of 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above is that there are going to be many more, so it seems like a natural place where people will want to go to if they want to maintain the current status quo. Well, those areas are still going to get warmer, so you have to think…if you’re living in Canada, those areas are still going to get warmer…if you live in Scandinavia, those areas are still going to get warmer. So, I would like to believe, certain areas are good to adapt, but if not, I mean just stick a pickle ball! Maybe more pickle ball will be played…it’s a modern sport, you know people are creative and they find unique ways to maximize what is given to them and I’m staying positive that society will come up with some new ways to exercise to the outdoors in the future.
Katie Huffman: Thank you, Nick and thanks to everyone who joined us today I don’t see any more questions in the chat I am going to go ahead and launch a poll. So, if you will answer just a few questions before you leave and then I’ll announce next month’s presentation topics. So, we’re sticking with the theme of physical activity, and we hope you can join us on May the 18th where our presentation which will feature Dr Bill Kohl representing the Physical Activity Alliance and the title of his presentation will be How Can We Know Where to Go Without a Plan, The US National Physical Activity Plan. That concludes today’s presentation, I hope you have a great rest of your day and thanks again for joining us.
Nicholas Beresic: Thank you.