Daily physical activity and sedentary behaviour across occupational classifications in Canadian adults

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A new article titled “Daily physical activity and sedentary behaviour across occupational classifications in Canadian adults ” was recently published in Health Reports, which is a peer-reviewed journal of population health and health services research published by the Health Analysis Division of  Statistics Canada. Citation details and a summary of the paper are below. The full-text article can be found here.

Prince, Stephanie & Roberts, Karen & Reed, Jennifer & Biswas, Avi & Colley, Rachel & Thompson, Wendy. (2020). Daily physical activity and sedentary behaviour across occupational classifications in Canadian adults. Health reports / Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Health Information = Rapports sur la sante / Statistique Canada, Centre canadien d’information sur la sante. 31. 13-26. 10.25318/82-003-x202000900002-eng.



Adults spend a large proportion of their day at work. Physical activity (PA) and sedentary behaviour (SB) have been shown to vary considerably between occupations. The objective of this study is to describe occupational differences in accelerometer-measured and self-reported PA and SB for Canadian full-time workers.

Data and methods

Using combined data from three cycles of the nationally representative Canadian Health Measures Survey (N = 4,080), three activity groups (high, intermediate, low) were created based on a composite ranking of accelerometer-derived steps, proportion of time spent sedentary (SED%) and moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) in bouts of ⋝10 minutes (MVPAbouted). Differences between groups were assessed for accelerometer-derived and self-reported PA and SB, and sociodemographic and clinical characteristics.


On average, Canadians employed in full-time work were sedentary for 68.9% of their day (95% confidence interval [CI]: 68.3% to 69.6%), took 8,984 steps per day (95% CI: 8,719 to 9,249) and accumulated 79.5 minutes per week of MVPAbouted (95% CI: 71.1 to 87.9). Among Canadians employed in full-time work, 18.5% met the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. The high-activity group took significantly more steps and had a lower SED%, but spent a higher proportion of time in light-intensity PA compared with the intermediate- and low-activity groups. No differences were observed for MVPA. The low-activity group reported more recreational and active travel-related PA and leisure reading, while those in the high-activity group reported more work and domestic PA and leisure screen time.


The majority of full-time working adults are not getting adequate MVPA and spend most of their day sedentary, regardless of occupation. Findings support workplace policies to improve MVPA levels among Canadian workers and to promote awareness for the potential benefit of occupation-specific messaging around PA and SB.

Link to the original article in Health Reports: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2020009/article/00002-eng.htm (open access).

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