Environmental factors including seasonal changes are important to guide physical activity (PA) programs to achieve or sustain weight loss. The goal was to determine seasonal variability in the amount and patterns of free-living PA in women.
PA was measured in 57 healthy women from metropolitan Nashville, TN, and surrounding counties (age: 20 to 54 years, body mass index: 17 to 48 kg/m2) using an accelerometer for 7 consecutive days during 3 seasons within 1 year. PA counts and energy expenditure (EE) were measured in a whole-room indirect calorimeter and used to model accelerometer output and to calculate daily EE and intensity of PA expressed as metabolic equivalents (METs).
PA was lower in winter than in summer (131 ± 45 vs. 144 ± 54 × 103 counts/d; P = .025) and in spring/fall (143 ± 48 × 103 counts/d; P = .027). On weekends, PA was lower in winter than in summer by 22,652 counts/d (P = .008). In winter, women spent more time in sedentary activities than in summer (difference 35 min/d; P = .007) and less time in light activities (difference −29 min/d, P = .018) and moderate or vigorous activities (difference −6 min/d, P = .051).
Women living in the southeastern United States had lower PA levels in winter compared with summer and spring/fall, and the magnitude of this effect was greater on weekends than weekdays.
Buchowski and Chen are with the Energy Balance Laboratory, Buchowski, Majchrzak, and Matthews are with the Dept of Medicine, Choi is with the Dept of Biostatistics, and Acra is with the Dept of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN 37232. Chen is now with the Clinical Endocrinology Branch, Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda MD.