Ethnic disparities in objectively measured physical activity may be due to occupational activity

Prev Med. 2014 Jun;63:58-62. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.02.015. Epub 2014 Feb 28.


Objectives: We examined whether Mexican American adults report occupations that involve higher levels of objectively assessed physical activity compared with Non-Hispanic White and Black adults, and if the differences were independent of income.

Methods: Data from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES; N=2707) were analyzed in 2012-2013. An existing classification scheme was used to classify self-reported occupation as sedentary, low-active, or moderately active. From NHANES accelerometer data, proportion of wear time was stratified by intensity.

Results: A dose-response relationship was found such that workers in more active occupations spent more time in light-intensity activity and less time engaged in sedentary activities. The findings did not suggest a compensation effect for moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity. Mexican American adults engaged in more activity than Non-Hispanic Black or White adults for incomes between $10,000 and $64,999.

Conclusions: Mexican American adults may have higher total physical activity levels in NHANES because of occupational activity, particularly among lower income households. To the extent that light-intensity activity may provide health benefits, occupational activity may partly explain the Hispanic paradox.

Keywords: Accelerometer; Exercise; Health disparities; Mexican-American.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupations / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sedentary Behavior / ethnology*
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult