Is Saskatchewan's extreme weather creating couch potatoes?

Researchers believe extreme cold, heat could explain province's high obesity rates

July 31, 2017

A new study from the University of Regina is studying whether extreme temperatures are a factor in high obesity rates. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

A research team at the University of Regina is looking into whether bone-chilling winters and scorching summers are driving up Saskatchewan's obesity rates.

The university's faculty of kinesiology and health studies is currently measuring the activity levels of 150 people over the course of a year to get a better perspective on how the weather affects exercise routines.


Historically, Herman said most people slowed down their activity levels in the winter, mainly due to a lack of food. However, modern life has changed that significantly.

"Not only do we not have to hunt for our food, we don't have to get off our couch," said assistant professor Katya Herman. "We just have to pick up our smartphones and call up Save-On-Foods, and they show up on our doorstep."

High obesity rates in Sask.

Obesity rates in Saskatchewan are generally among the highest in the country. Recent data from Statistics Canada shows 25 per cent of people in Saskatchewan are obese, compared to 16 per cent in British Columbia.

"We have those weather extremes that other locations may not have," said Herman. "In British Columbia, the temperatures are much more moderate in both directions. They don't have the high heat of the summer, and they don't have the minus-40s that we experience."

Ultimately, the researchers want to use the study to explore ways to make it easier for people to get active during times when they may not want to venture outdoors.

"Are there facilities that people can access for much reduced rates or for free?" she asked. "Are there programs to get people active without having to go to a gym? Is there a facility where people can go for a walk and get out and be active?"

The study asks participants to fill out a lengthy questionnaire about their activity levels. It also provides the subjects with a pedometer, which tracks activity rates over the course of a year.

For more information on the study, click here.

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