On-the-Job Activity Boosts Americans' Exercise Levels

Certain groups more likely to meet fitness guidelines when work-related exercise is considered

FRIDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) -- On-the-job physical activity contributes to a person's overall fitness, and should be considered when evaluating whether an individual meets recommended physical activity guidelines, a new U.S. government report says.

Using existing guidelines, which only take into account leisure-time physical activity, a study by the Washington State Department of Health (WADOH) found that about 64 percent of U.S. adults met minimum standards. But when their work-related activity was also included, another 6.5 percent of adults achieved the recommended activity level, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Less-educated individuals and Hispanics were more likely than others to report significant amounts of on-the-job physical activity, which primarily consisted of walking or heavy labor, said the study published in the May 27 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

For men who had not completed high school, the rate who met guidelines through work-related activity jumped 15.9 percent, from 55.7 percent to 71.6 percent. The rate for Hispanic men rose 14.4 percent when occupational exercise was considered, from 60.6 percent to 75 percent. These men were less likely than whites to have met physical activity guidelines through non-work-related activity, the report found.

Assessing the frequency and duration of work activity as well as leisure-time exercise would more accurately indicate whether Americans are active enough to benefit their health, the report said.

The report also said that "consideration of occupational physical activity in the monitoring of population physical activity levels can help to identify demographic groups for targeted programs to increase physical activity."

Broken down by gender, more than two-thirds (68.5 percent) of men met the guidelines through leisure-time activity. When job-related physical activity also was tallied, the proportion meeting guidelines jumped to 76.3 percent. For women, the proportion meeting the guidelines rose from 60.4 percent to 65.7 percent when on-the-job exercise was considered.

Physical activity, a key health indicator, is assessed by states and the federal government for use in the development of public health plans and policies.

For their study, the WADOH researchers analyzed data from the 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a nationwide telephone survey. The researchers then used the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans to determine if people were meeting the physical activity recommendations.

The current standards call for leisure-time physical activity of 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking or gardening, a week; 75 minutes or more of vigorous-intensity activity, such as running or heavy yard work, each week; or a combination of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity activity totaling 150 minutes a week (with vigorous-intensity activity minutes doubled).

More information

To learn more about physical fitness and health, see the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 27, 2011

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