Understanding the activity patterns of Canadians at work and outside of work, and their association with overall health
Reasons for the study
An increasingly sedentary society has necessitated efforts to promote physical activity, and the workplace provides an ideal setting for activity promotion since more than 15 million Canadians spend half their days at work. However, activity at work might not confer the same health benefits as activity outside work. Many people might not find it possible to follow activity recommendations at work because of demanding work schedules, an inability to make work-related decisions, and unsupportive workplace environments. Furthermore, the activity patterns of men and women can be influenced by biological and social factors even when working in similar jobs. A better understanding of real-world workers' movement patterns can inform health recommendations that workers can feasibly undertake at work.
Previous Canadian studies examining workers’ activity patterns have generally relied on self-reported data that are subject to recall and social desirability biases, thus limiting the accuracy and reliability of the findings. Accelerometers have created opportunities to improve surveillance and analytic research on activity and health in free-living individuals, although their use has been mostly limited to small studies. To our knowledge, no studies have objectively measured the movement patterns of a representative sample of Canadian workers.
This study aims to fill this gap. Using accelerometer-based data, it is examining movement behaviours both during work and outside of work among a large sample of workers to gain insight into the associations between various movement behaviours and cardiometabolic risk. Cardiometabolic risk refers to the possibility of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and represents a leading cause of preventable death worldwide.
Objectives of the study
- To describe the movement patterns of Canadian workers at work and outside of work
- To explore differences in movement patterns between older and younger workers, between men and women
- To identify which patterns are associated with optimal cardiometabolic health profiles
This project fills an unexplored gap in our understanding of how much Canadians move at their jobs, how that movement contributes to overall movement levels and, in turn, cardiometabolic health. The findings will point to movement patterns that are both feasible and beneficial for workers, as well as inform public health recommendations on whether certain movement patterns at work offer protective cardiometabolic benefits.
Related research summaries
- Associations between physical activity patterns and cardiometabolic health in Canadian working adults. Research Highlights: Institute for Work & Health, June 2023.
- Ideal daily physical activity patterns for heart health. Infographic: Institute for Work & Health, October 2022.
Related scientific publications
- Biswas A. Occupational physical activity as a target for obesity prevention: a lack of effect or a lack of evidence?. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2021;78(3):145-146. doi:10.1136/oemed-2020-107266.
Related interviews and articles
- Workers doing vigorous, tiring activity all day no healthier than those who are least active. At Work: Institute for Work & Health; No. 109, Summer 2022.
Canadian Institutes of Health Research