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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC Study: Daily Tasks Can Get Sedentary Workers Closer to National Physical Activity Guidelines

People with deskbound or sedentary jobs who have difficulty finding time to work out still can meet national guidelines for physical activity as long as they engage in other active daily tasks.


[Photo: People with deskbound jobs can still meet guidelines for physical activity if they are active outside of work, this UNC study finds. Photo by Mr. Nick Gray]

Those are the findings of a new study from researchers at The University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and published online September 4 by the journal Social Science Medicine.

The study, titled “No time for the gym? Housework and other non-labor market time use patterns are associated with meeting physical activity recommendations among adults in full-time, sedentary jobs,” found that, among people with sedentary jobs, those who spent significant time in their hours away from their jobs in activities such as housework, gardening, yard work or caregiving were more likely to approach or meet proscribed guidelines for activity.

The results suggest that interventions aimed at reducing sitting time among sedentary workers should focus on cutting both screen time and non-screen time sedentary activities.

“Reducing screen time is important, but it’s also vital that people recognize too much time sitting doing anything can be detrimental, especially for people who sit all day at work,” said Ms. Lindsey Smith, doctoral candidate in nutrition at the Gillings School and first author on the study. “This includes sitting while socializing, reading, running errands, and other non-work activities.”

Ms. Smith adds that small changes in such habits often can be much easier for people to incorporate into their daily lives than are large-scale or radical changes. She cautions, however, that more study is needed to ascertain how overall time-use activities and patterns are related to obesity and health outcomes. She adds that for people in general, but especially for individuals with sedentary jobs, the message about physical activity is fairly clear.

“Whenever possible, sit less, move more,” she says.

The study was co-authored by Dr. Shu Wen Ng, research assistant professor and Dr. Barry Popkin, W.R. Kenan Jr, Distinguished Professor, both in the Gillings School’s Department of Nutrition.

The full study can be found online here.