Employment and Physical Activity in the U.S.

Dane R. Van Domelen, Annemarie Koster, Paolo Caserotti, Robert J. Brychta, Kong Y. Chen, James J. McClain, Richard P. Troiano, David Berrigan, Tamara B. Harris*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

106 Citations (Web of Science)


Background: Physical inactivity is a risk factor for obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and other chronic diseases that are increasingly prevalent in the U. S. and worldwide. Time at work represents a major portion of the day for employed people. Purpose: To determine how employment status (full-time, part-time, or not employed) and job type (active or sedentary) are related to daily physical activity levels in American adults. Methods: Cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) were collected in 2003-2004 and analyzed in 2010. Physical activity was measured using Actigraph uniaxial accelerometers, and participants aged 20-60 years with >= days of monitoring were included (N = 1826). Accelerometer variables included mean counts/minute during wear time and proportion of wear time spent in various intensity levels. Results: In men, full-time workers were more active than healthy nonworkers (p = 0.004), and in weekday-only analyses, even workers with sedentary jobs were more active (p = 0.03) and spent less time sedentary (p <0.001) than nonworkers. In contrast with men, women with full-time sedentary jobs spent more time sedentary (p = 0.008) and had less light and lifestyle intensity activity than healthy nonworkers on weekdays. Within full-time workers, those with active jobs had greater weekday activity than those with sedentary jobs (22% greater in men, 30% greater in women). Conclusions: In men, full-time employment, even in sedentary occupations, is positively associated with physical activity compared to not working, and in both genders job type has a major bearing on daily activity levels. (Am J Prev Med 2011;41(2):136-145)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-145
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011

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