Employment and physical activity in the U.S

Am J Prev Med. 2011 Aug;41(2):136-45. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2011.03.019.


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 ≥4 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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory / methods
  • Motor Activity*
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Risk Factors
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult