exercise in the north

fact: people who live in colder states exercise more than those who live in warm ones

bruce conclusion: there are more couch potatoes in warm areas than cold areas


This factoid surprised me.

In fact … I can further show research that suggests people in colder countries exercise more than warmer ones <in industrialized countries versus countries dependent upon agriculture & labor based lives>.

Go figure.

The people who live in locations where it is actually easier to be more active more hours of the day … more days of the year … are less active.


A study from Brazil’s federal university of Pelotas measured the physical activity in 122 countries (89% of world population).

Here is some not so new news:

–          rates of exercise have declined since industrial revolution as technology has replaced labor.

Overall 31% globally do not get enough exercise.

–          Rich people (richer countries) are less active than poorer countries.

–          Women tend to exercise less than men (34% inactive to 28% of men) except in Croatia, Finland, Iraq and Luxembourg where apparently women are more active than men < I cannot even speculate why>.

–          If you are a couch potato, move to Malta … you will have plenty of company on the couch.

Malta is the worst (72% getting too little exercise) with Saudi Arabia (69percent) close behind.

Interestingly United States <with its well known reputation for obesity> is actually better than what is perceived … with over 60% of the people sufficiently active.

Here is an interesting thought from the study:

“… the high rates of inactivity are worrying. Paradoxically human beings seem to have evolved to benefit from exercise … while eschewing it whenever they can. Insufficient activity has nearly the same effect on life expectancy as smoking.”

I will come back to that thought because not only are people exercising less … but in areas where it is actually easier to exercise year round those people are the worst exercise-avoidance offenders.


Back to the United States.

Now. The US being the US … while the Brazilian study suggested a positive spin on activity levels … the CDC suggests that the activity level sucks <maybe they didn’t compare globally?>.

A report by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention declares that only 64% <versus .. over 60% …> of Americans surveyed can be described as physically active (defined as over 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or half as much vigorous activity).

Almost a quarter get no exercise at all outside the workplace.

In a breakdown of states it seems that people who live in cold states like Alaska are more likely to get their weekly work-out than those in sunny Florida.

The biggest exceptions from this correlation are Hawaii, where 70% are energetic, and Tennessee, which has the lowest percentage of active people despite a lower average temperature than several other states.

Okay. Like I said upfront … it surprised me … so I did some research.

And there is plenty of research to show that your body will respond very differently to the same program of diet and exercise in the summer than it does in the winter.


The temperature in which you exercise affects the number of fat calories your body burns for energy. Some evidence for this comes from a trial published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise <subjects cycled for 90 minutes in several different temperatures – 14degrees, 32, 50 & 68 degrees Fahrenheit … the study was actually done in Celsius>.

The number of fat calories burned for energy was reduced at colder temperatures <although previous research at Kent State University also shows an increase in protein breakdown when you exercise in the cold>.

So … that actually means you may exercise more but burn less fat in colder weather.

How much does that suck for people in cold geography looking for results despite exercising more than their warmer friends?


This is not the only study to look at the effect of cold air on fat metabolism. And the results are far from conclusive. But regardless … people in warmer geography exercise less than colder geography.

What a waste of good weather.

I guess my biggest conclusion is that there are more couch potatoes in warm places than cold places.


How do you know if you are a couch potato?

–          You hate the idea of outdoor activity. Heck. The thought of any activity makes you break out in sweat. You figure why bother when you can watch activity on TV.

–          Your life revolves around television & computers … call it the doom loop of inactivity as it cycles 24/7.

–          How you eat is out of your control … your body demands intake <of whatever it wants>. You are at the mercy of yourself <if that explains itself>

–          Nobody else around you is active … heck … why do it if no one else is?

–          You prefer relaxing after a hard days work … all the time … and you even like relaxing after relaxing.

–          You just can’t find the time … in fact … how can you find the time when you don’t even have enough time for your tv shows?.

–          You are in denial about any issues you may have with weight. Other people are too skinny any way.

–          You are obsessed with your spot on the couch. It has a special cushion. You have a special place for the snack bowl and drink. And you get grumpy if anyone takes your spot or screws with it in any way.

–          You make sure that all the accoutrements are always available and accessible … the multiple remotes … the food supplies … the necessary comfort pillows/cushions/stuffed animals or blow up dolls … oh … at the spot.

–          You preempt distractions. All phones are off the hook. Your cell is on silent. The door bell is disengaged. The curtains are pulled so no one thinks you are home.

<be scared of you scored anywhere over 5 out of ten>

Seriously though … the most shocking finding from the Brazilian study is that insufficient activity has about the same effect on life expectancy as smoking.


If you meet the couch potato criteria and have attained sloth status maybe it is time to think about exercising <or moving to the north apparently>.

You don’t need to be running marathons.

150 minutes a week.

2 ½ hours a week.

½ hour 5 days a week.

21.4 minutes a day.

It ain’t much.

And it seems like a pretty simple thing to do to begin addressing the worldwide obesity crisis. Small steps contribute to large results.

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Written by Bruce