Exercise in a Changing Climate

This page is authored by James Dontje, Gustavus Adolphus College, based on an activity developed for a required fitness class taught by multiple different instructors.
Gustavus Adolphus College, Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation, Environmental Studies
Author Profile


Students will view a series of short videos (alternatively, PowerPoint presentations, which can be viewed at a pace determined by the students) describing what climate change is and the implications for exercise and athletic activities. Using the question of how exercise and sporting events might be affected by climate, students are led to the basic questions of what causes climate change, how our climate might change, and what affect that might have on athletes and anyone undertaking strenuous exercise.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

This module is intended to help the students understand the following concepts:
  • What is the basic mechanism of anthropogenic climate change.
  • How our climate will change, particularly in Minnesota and the upper Midwest.
  • The implications of climate change for exercise and athletic activities.
  • How heat and humidity interact to affect the climate and human physiology during exercise.
  • The key responses to climate change of adaptation and mitigation.
  • The key "ask" of students is that they reflect on how the global scale climate effects could change their everyday physical fitness activities.

Context for Use

This exercise was originally developed as a module to be used in a general health and fitness course that required for all undergraduates. It can be done as a class exercise in any size class or as a self-paced, self-study module. Depending on the students' interest and capacity, this module can be done in as little as an hour, or as much as two hours (or two class periods), particularly if there is extensive discussion and exploration of the causes and implications. The "How Global Warming Works" section has alternative versions for more in depth consideration.

Description and Teaching Materials

The lesson as outlined above is available at this web page: http://homepages.gac.edu/~jdontje/ExerciseinaChangingClimate.htm. The lesson invites students to learn more about anthropogenic climate change in general, while considering the implications for everyday exercise activity

At that link, there are a series of 4 presentations, each with an associated set of reflection questions. The presentations should be viewed sequentially with the respective set of reflection questions considered after each presentation.

Presentations 1, 3 and 4 are in MP4, HTML5 (weblink) and clickable PowerPoint forms on the web page. Presentation 4 on "How Global Warming Works" is a link to an external website with different length versions.

The presentations can be viewed sequentially with time for considering the reflection questions after each video. At the end, there is the option of taking a quiz (example provided) to gauge the students' comprehension. Alternatively, students may be assigned the entire lesson as a self-study project with follow-up discussion in the following class.

References for all the presentations are cited within the presentations along with any required licensing details.

Exercise in a changing climate quiz (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 67kB Jan31 17)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Given the fairly basic level of the information presented, it might be good to engage the students in short advance discussion to gauge their prior knowledge. If they show considerable prior knowledge, the discussion and reflection can be deepened.


The quiz provided is an example of an assessment tool. Instructors can easily add to or adapt this quiz to their purposes.

References and Resources

All resources used in developing this presentation are cited within at the end of each presentation.