Background: Physical activity can be affected by both meteorological conditions and surrounding greenness, but few studies have evaluated the effects of these environmental factors on physical activity simultaneously. This multi-city comparative study aimed to assess the synergetic effects of apparent temperature and surrounding greenness on physical activity in four European cities. Specifically, we aimed to identify an interaction between surrounding greenness and apparent temperature in the effects on physical activity. Methods: Data were collected from 352 adult residents of Barcelona (Spain), Stoke-on-Trent (United Kingdom), Doetinchem (The Netherlands), and Kaunas (Lithuania) as part of the PHENOTYPE study. Participants wore a smartphone for seven consecutive days between May–December 2013 and provided additional sociodemographic survey data. Hourly average physical activity (Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET)) and surrounding greenness (NDVI) were derived from the Calfit mobile application collecting accelerometer and location data. Hourly apparent temperature was calculated from temperature and relative humidity, which were obtained from local meteorological stations along with other meteorological covariates (rainfall, windspeed, and sky darkness). We assessed the interaction effects of apparent temperature and surrounding greenness on hourly physical activity for each city using linear mixed models, while adjusting for meteorological, demographic, and time-related variables. Results: We found significant interactions between apparent temperature and surrounding greenness on hourly physical activity in three of four cities, aside from the coastal city of Barcelona. Significant quadratic effects of apparent temperature were found in the highest level of surrounding greenness for Stoke-on-Trent and Doetinchem, with 4% decrease in median MET observed for a 10°C departure from optimal temperature (15.2°C and 14.6°C, respectively). Significant linear effects were found for higher levels of surrounding greenness in Kaunas, whereby an increase of 10°C was associated with ∼4% increase in median MET. Conclusion: Apparent temperature and surrounding greenness interacted in the effect on hourly physical activity across three of four European cities, with varying effect between cities. While quadratic effects of temperature suggest diminishing levels of physical activity in the highest greenness levels in cities of temperate climates, the variation in surrounding greenness between cities could be further explored, particularly by looking at indoor-outdoor locations. The study findings support the need for evidence-based physical activity promotion and urban design.
- Apparent temperature
- Physical activity