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Original research
Changes in work factors and concurrent changes in leisure time physical activity: a 12-year longitudinal analysis
  1. Aviroop Biswas1,2,
  2. Kathleen G Dobson1,2,
  3. Monique A M Gignac1,2,
  4. Claire de Oliveira3,4,5,6,
  5. Peter M Smith1,2,7
  1. 1 Institute for Work and Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2 Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3 Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4 Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  5. 5 Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  6. 6 Centre for Health Economics/Hull York Medical School, University of York, York, UK
  7. 7 Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Aviroop Biswas, Institute for Work and Health, Toronto, ON M5G 2E9, Canada; abiswas{at}


Objectives There is a paucity of longitudinal population-based studies examining whether changes in work factors are associated with concurrent changes in leisure time physical activity (LTPA). This study examines this issue using 12 years of longitudinal survey data.

Methods Data were drawn from the Canadian National Population Health Survey. The initial analytical sample in 1994 of 6407 working individuals was followed every 2 years from 2000 to 2010. Seven work factors were measured as independent variables: skill discretion, decision authority, psychological demands, physical exertion, number of jobs, hours at work and shift schedule. LTPA was categorised as inactive, moderately active or active based on metabolic equivalent task values. Fixed-effects multinomial logistic models were used to examine associations between work factors and LTPA controlling for time-invariant effects and adjusted for covariates.

Results Workers with lower skill discretion (OR=0.96; 95% CI 0.92 to 0.99), higher psychological demands (OR=0.95; 95% CI 0.92 to 0.99), higher physical exertion (OR=0.93; 95% CI 0.88 to 0.99) and longer work hours (OR=0.97; 95% CI 0.95 to 098) were associated with a lower odds of transitioning from inactive to active and moderately active. There was no evidence of effect modification by age or sex.

Conclusion Results suggest that as participants’ skill discretion decreased, and their physical and psychological demands, and work hours increased, their likelihood of becoming more active and moderately active also decreased, supporting the value of targeting improvements in these work factors for physical activity interventions.

  • longitudinal studies
  • work factors
  • physical activity
  • survey data
  • psychological demands
  • employment

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  • Contributors AB designed the study. KGD conducted data analyses. AB wrote the manuscript. The results were interpreted, and the manuscript was revised by all authors (AB, MAMG, PMS, KGD, CdO).

  • Funding AB is supported by a Mustard Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Institute for Work & Health. KGD is supported by a Canadian Institutes for Health Research Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship. PMS is supported by a Canadian Institutes for Health Research chair in gender, work and health.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by Statistics Canada and the Health Sciences ethics committee review board at the University of Toronto (protocol number: 30651).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request. Data from the National Population Health Survey are available from Statistics Canada as deidentified participant data. Aggregated population data from the National Population Health Survey are freely available from Statistics Canada.