Objectives: Lack of physical activity (PA) has been hypothesised as an underlying mechanism in the adverse health effects of shift work. Therefore, our aim was to compare non-occupational PA levels between shift workers and non-shift workers. Furthermore, exposure-response relationships for frequency of night shifts and years of shift work regarding non-occupational PA levels were studied.
Methods: Data of 5980 non-shift workers and 532 shift workers from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Netherlands (EPIC-NL) were used in these cross-sectional analyses. Time spent (hours/week) in different PA types (walking/cycling/exercise/chores) and intensities (moderate/vigorous) were calculated based on self-reported PA. Furthermore, sports were operationalised as: playing sports (no/yes), individual versus non-individual sports, and non-vigorous-intensity versus vigorous-intensity sports. PA levels were compared between shift workers and non-shift workers using Generalized Estimating Equations and logistic regression.
Results: Shift workers reported spending more time walking than non-shift workers (B=2.3 (95% CI 1.2 to 3.4)), but shift work was not associated with other PA types and any of the sports activities. Shift workers who worked 1-4 night shifts/month (B=2.4 (95% CI 0.6 to 4.3)) and ≥5 night shifts/month (B=3.7 (95% CI 1.8 to 5.6)) spent more time walking than non-shift workers. No exposure-response relationships were found between years of shift work and PA levels.
Conclusions: Shift workers spent more time walking than non-shift workers, but we observed no differences in other non-occupational PA levels. To better understand if and how PA plays a role in the negative health consequences of shift work, our findings need to be confirmed in future studies.
Keywords: Physical activity.
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