Media Availability: NIH researchers tie even sedentary employment in men to overall increased physical activity

July 12, 2011

Megan Homer | 301-496-1752 |

WHAT: Employment status may be related in some ways to weekday physical activity, according to researchers at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. In a study measuring activity levels, full-time employed men--in active or sedentary jobs--were more physically active than 'healthy' unemployed (unemployed but not due to health problems) men during the work week. Women with sedentary jobs, however, were less physically active on weekdays compared to unemployed women. The study found no significant differences in physical activity between employed and unemployed people on the weekend.

The findings suggest that people, particularly men, who are unemployed and those with sedentary jobs could benefit from proactive attention to physical activity, which might reduce risk for problems associated with inactivity, like obesity, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. In addition, daily physical activity could help unemployed men maintain aspects of physical and emotional health while on the job search.

The findings, published online on Tuesday, July 12, in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, are based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). NHANES combines interviews, standardized physical exams and questionnaires collected from a nationally representative sample of approximately 5,000 people each year. A unique feature of this part of the study was use of an accelerometer to measure physical activity. The device, worn around the waist, detects the existence and intensity of body movement. Among working people, researchers found that people with sedentary positions were 22 percent (men) and 30 percent (women) less active than those with more active professions. The study took into account activity related to the daily commute. Workplace wellness programs might be one way to increase activity levels for the benefit of all employees, the researchers noted.

ARTICLE: "Employment and Physical Activity in the U.S." by Dane R. Van Domelen, B.S., Annemarie Koster, Ph.D., Paolo Caserotti, Ph.D., Robert J. Brychta, Ph.D., Kong Y. Chen, Ph.D., James J. McClain, Ph.D., Richard P. Troiano, Ph.D., David Berrigan, Ph.D., and Tamara B. Harris, M.D., M.S. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. July 12, 2011 (online). DOI: 10.1016, Editorial reference: j.amepre.2011.03.019.

SPOKESPERSONS: Tamara B. Harris, M.D., M.S., senior investigator & chief, Geriatric Epidemiology Section, Laboratory of Epidemiology, Demography, and Biometry, NIA; Dane R. Van Domelen, post-baccalaureate fellow, and Annemarie Koster, Ph.D., post-doctoral fellow, NIA Laboratory of Epidemiology, Demography, and Biometry.

CONTACT: To schedule interviews, contact Megan Homer in the NIA Office of Communications and Public Liaison, (301) 496-1752,

The NIA leads the federal government effort conducting and supporting research on aging and the health and well-being of older people. The Institute's broad scientific program seeks to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life. For more information on research, aging, and health, go to

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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