Too Cold for a Jog?

Weather, Exercise, and Socioeconomic Status

Published in: The B. E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, v. 9, no. 1, June 2009, p. 1-30

Posted on RAND.org on June 01, 2009

by Daniel Eisenberg, Edward N. Okeke

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This study examines how exercise responds to plausibly exogenous "price shocks," in the form of weather conditions. Most notably, we find that within cold temperature ranges, a decrease in past-month temperature causes a significant decrease in past-month exercise, and this effect is generally larger for lower education and income groups. In large part this differential by socioeconomic group appears to be due to smaller increases in indoor activity during cold weather. These results suggest that interventions and policies aiming to increase exercise participation, particularly among lower socioeconomic populations, could do so in part by increasing the availability and attractiveness of indoor facilities and activities. Furthermore, to the extent that the higher elasticity of behavior for lower socioeconomic groups reflects a more general sensitivity to external factors, these results highlight the promise of interventions that address such factors more broadly.

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