The impact of weather on time allocation to physical activity and sleep of child-parent dyads

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Abstract

Purpose: Previous studies showed that unfavourable weather conditions discourage physical activity. However, it remains unclear whether unfavourable weather conditions have a differential impact on physical activity in children compared with adults. We aim to explore the differential impact of weather on time allocation to physical activity and sleep by children and their parents. Method: We use nationally representative data with time use indicators objectively measured on multiple occasions for >1100 Australian pairs of 12–13-year-old children and their middle-aged parents, coupled with daily meteorological data. We employ an individual fixed effects regression model to estimate the causal impact of weather. Results: We find that unfavourable weather conditions, as measured by cold or hot temperatures or rain, cause children to reduce moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity time and increase sedentary time. However, such weather conditions have little impact on children's sleep time or the time allocation of their parents. We also find substantial differential weather impact, especially on children's time allocation, by weekdays/weekends and parental employment status, suggesting that these factors may contribute to explaining the differential weather impact that we observed. Our results additionally provide evidence of adaptation, as temperature appears to have a more pronounced impact on time allocation in colder months and colder regions. Conclusion: Our finding of a negative impact of unfavourable weather conditions on the time allocated to physical activity by children indicates a need to design policies to encourage them to be more physically active on days with unfavourable weather conditions and hence improve child health and wellbeing. Evidence of a more pronounced and negative impact on the time allocated to physical activity by children than their parents suggests that extreme weather conditions, including those associated with climate change, could make children vulnerable to reduced physical activity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number163249
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume880
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023

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