Occupation correlates of adults' participation in leisure-time physical activity: a systematic review

Am J Prev Med. 2011 Apr;40(4):476-85. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.12.015.


Context: The rapid changes to the labor force (e.g., advances in technology, overtime hours) have increased obesogenic behaviors (e.g., lack of physical activity, sedentariness on the job).

Purpose: The purpose of this review was to unite and appraise the existing research examining occupation correlates of adults' participation in leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) to establish direction for future research targeting habitual inactivity.

Evidence acquisition: Eligible studies were searched from January 2009 to July 2010 in English peer-reviewed journals. A total of 62 studies passed the inclusion criteria. Major findings were summarized based on common subtopics of occupation category/status, occupational physical activity (OPA), work hours, psychological work demands, and LTPA.

Evidence synthesis: Included articles were published between 1984 and 2010, with sample sizes ranging from 158 to 203,120. Occupation factors correlated with LTPA, but the magnitude of the effect was difficult to determine because of heterogeneous measures. Occupation category/status was directly associated with LTPA, with white-collar/professionals showing the highest LTPA compared to blue-collar workers. When OPA was measured, a positive association with LTPA was found. Work hours appeared to have a negative threshold effect on LTPA. Some preliminary evidence found psychosocial work demands (e.g., job strain) to be negatively correlated with LTPA levels.

Conclusions: Convincing evidence supports the premise that those employed in occupations demanding long work hours and low OPA are at risk of inactivity. Existing research has focused heavily on cross-sectional data and study-created self-report measures. Longitudinal evaluations using robust research measures (e.g., accelerometry, National occupation classification tool) are a priority for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Occupations / classification
  • Occupations / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Time Factors
  • Workload / statistics & numerical data