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Original research
Occupational physical activity and cardiovascular disease in the United States

Abstract

Background Emerging evidence, predominately from European and Asian countries, describes opposing effects of occupational physical activity (OPA) and leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) on cardiovascular health. This analysis examined cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevalence associated with OPA and LTPA.

Methods This cross-sectional analysis of 2015 National Health Interview Survey data (n=16 974) employed logistic regression to estimate odds (OR) of self-reported CVD (coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke or angina) with self-reported total occupational activity (TOA), occupational exertion (OE), occupational standing and walking (OSW) and LTPA. OPA was measured using two questions: ‘How often does your job involve…’ (1) ‘repeated lifting, pushing, pulling or bending?’ (OE) and (2) ‘standing or walking around?’ (OSW) with responses on a 5-item Likert scale (0=never, 4=always). TOA was categorised similarly after summing OE and OSW scores. LTPA was defined as 0, 1–149 or ≥150 min/week of moderate-to-vigorous activity. All models adjusted for common socioeconomic variables and additional analyses were stratified by sex, smoking status and LTPA.

Results Odds for CVD were higher when ‘always’ performing TOA (OR 1.99 95% CI 1.12 to 3.53), OE (OR 2.15, 95% CI 1.45 to 3.19) or OSW (OR 1.84, 95% CI 1.07 to 3.17) compared with ‘never’. When restricting to never-smokers, odds for CVD were higher when ‘always’ performing TOA (OR 3.00, 95% CI 1.38 to 6.51) and OE (OR 3.00, 95% CI 1.80 to 5.02) versus ‘never’.

Conclusion Associations of high OPA with CVD were equally apparent across sexes, stronger in lower LTPA levels and stronger in never-smokers. While uncontrolled confounding is still possible, even after extensive adjustment, the seemingly paradoxical adverse associations with OPA and CVD should be investigated further.

  • occupational health practice
  • epidemiology
  • fitness for work
  • cardiovascular
  • physical work

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