Does regular physical activity influence climate change attitudes? (2020)

Many organizations, governments, and NGOs alike seek ways to best engage the broad public for meaningful and authentic actions to address climate change. There are various examples of this, but the challenge remains on what is deemed personally relevant to market segments – a question Trail and McCullough (in press, 2019) pose in their article. Also, other researchers note that exposure or regular interaction in or with nature can help increase an individual’s likelihood of increasing their sustainable awareness or behaviors. Cunningham and colleagues in their recent publication in Climatic Change took two datasets and analyze climate change attitudes and levels of physical activity reported at the county level in the United States. The researchers found that the more exposure that individuals, at the county level, had outdoors had a higher likelihood of supporting climate change policies to protect and preserve the natural environment. It may seem straightforward, but there are various applications outside of the ‘norm’ to their findings. First, outdoor participants in physical activity and recreation can serve as a prime market segment to convey the importance of protecting their outdoor activities or recreation. That is, campaign messages can target these individuals and demonstrate to them how climate change can impact the activities they love. Perhaps, and more pessimistically, as climate change makes outdoor activities more difficult (i.e., extreme weather, heat, cold, air quality) outdoor physical activity and recreation will become less frequent possibly hurting political momentum to push for meaningful climate change policies.


Cite: Cunningham, G., McCullough, B. P., & Hohensee, S. (aop, 2020). Physical activity and climate change attitudes. Climatic Change, 1-14.

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