Energy costs of daily activities for women in rural India

Public Health Nutr. 2008 Feb;11(2):142-50. doi: 10.1017/S1368980007000055. Epub 2007 Jun 13.


Objective: In view of the paucity of data on energy costs, the present study aimed to estimate these for typical daily activities performed by women in rural India.

Design: A cross-sectional study covering 26 different activities was done by indirect calorimetry using the Oxylog instrument (Morgan).

Settings: Villages about 30-40 km from Pune city, Maharashtra, India.

Subjects: Energy costs were measured on 22 rural Indian women aged 18-45 years.

Results: Irrespective of whether an activity was domestic or farming, energy cost was lower when performed in sitting position (cleaning grains 5.24 kJ min-1, plucking leafy vegetables 5.76 kJ min-1) and increased considerably with the extent of muscular movement (carrying two water containers 14.77 kJ min-1, chopping firewood 14.5 kJ min-1), indicating the importance of the postural details of the activity. Physical activity ratio computed using the Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization/United Nations University equation (PARw) was lower for all activities compared with that (PARm) based on measured basal metabolic rate, indicating the need for a population-specific equation. Furthermore, PARw identified more activities as belonging to the 'very light' category (nine out of 26 activities), in contrast to the perception of rural women which was supported with empirical evidence. Estimated daily energy expenditure of the women was 7.69 +/- 0.63 MJ (1837 +/- 150 kcal) and identified their daily activity pattern as 'moderate' based on PALw (1.65 +/- 0.16) while PALm (2.04 +/- 0.18) identified it as 'heavy'.

Conclusions: Our results highlight the importance of qualitative descriptions of the various activities. The energy costs for several daily activities reported in this study could potentially be used for estimating daily energy expenditure of women from similar rural settings.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Energy Intake*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Rural Health
  • Women's Health