Background: This scoping review summarized research on (a) seasonal differences in physical activity and sedentary behavior, and (b) specific weather indices associated with those behaviors.
Methods: PubMed, CINAHL, and SPORTDiscus were searched to identify relevant studies. After identifying and screening 1459 articles, data were extracted from 110 articles with 118,189 participants from 30 countries (almost exclusively high-income countries) on five continents.
Results: Both physical activity volume and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) were greater in summer than winter. Sedentary behavior was greater in winter than either spring or summer, and insufficient evidence existed to draw conclusions about seasonal differences in light physical activity. Physical activity volume and MVPA duration were positively associated with both the photoperiod and temperature, and negatively associated with precipitation. Sedentary behavior was negatively associated with photoperiod and positively associated with precipitation. Insufficient evidence existed to draw conclusions about light physical activity and specific weather indices. Many weather indices have been neglected in this literature (e.g., air quality, barometric pressure, cloud coverage, humidity, snow, visibility, windchill).
Conclusions: The natural environment can influence health by facilitating or inhibiting physical activity. Behavioral interventions should be sensitive to potential weather impacts. Extreme weather conditions brought about by climate change may compromise health-enhancing physical activity in the short term and, over longer periods of time, stimulate human migration in search of more suitable environmental niches.
Keywords: Environment; Exercise; Meteorological concepts; Rain; Screen time; Seasons; Sunlight; Temperature; Wind.