Climate change and physical activity: ambient temperature and urban trail use in Texas

Kevin Lanza, Julia Gohlke, Suwei Wang, Perry E. Sheffield, Olga Wilhelmi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Individuals in the USA are insufficiently active, increasing their chronic disease risk. Extreme temperatures may reduce physical activity due to thermal discomfort. Cooler climate studies have suggested climate change may have a net positive effect on physical activity, yet research gaps remain for warmer climates and within-day physical activity patterns. We determined the association between ambient temperatures (contemporary and projected) and urban trail use in a humid subtropical climate. At a trail in Austin, TX, five electronic counters recorded hourly pedestrian and cyclist counts in 2019. Weather data were acquired from World Weather Online. Generalized additive models estimated the association between temperature and trail counts. We then combined the estimated exposure–response relation with weather projections from climate models for intermediate (RCP4.5) and high (RCP8.5) emissions scenarios by NASA NEX-GDDP. From summer to autumn to spring to winter, hourly trail counts shifted from bimodal (mid-morning and early-evening peaks) to one mid-day peak. Pedestrians were more likely to use the trail between 7 and 27 °C (45–81°F) with peak use at 17 °C (63°F) and cyclists between 15 and 33 °C (59–91°F) with peak use at 27 °C (81°F) than at temperature extremes. A net decrease in trail use was estimated by 2041–2060 (RCP4.5: pedestrians = − 4.5%, cyclists = − 1.1%; RCP8.5: pedestrians = − 6.6%, cyclists = − 1.6%) and 2081–2100 (RCP4.5: pedestrians = − 7.5%, cyclists = − 1.9%; RCP8.5: pedestrians = − 16%, cyclists = − 4.5%). Results suggest climate change may reduce trail use. We recommend interventions for thermal comfort at settings for physical activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1575-1588
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Biometeorology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Adaptation
  • Apparent temperature
  • Cyclist
  • Extreme heat
  • Humid subtropical climate
  • Pedestrian


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