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Original research
Cardiovascular responses to physical activity during work and leisure
  1. Tyler David Quinn1,2,
  2. Christopher E Kline2,
  3. Elizabeth Nagle2,
  4. Lewis J Radonovich3,
  5. Abdullah Alansare2,4,
  6. Bethany Barone Gibbs2
  1. 1National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2Health and Human Development, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  3. 3Respiratory Health Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA
  4. 4Department of Exercise Physiology, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tyler David Quinn, National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; yhh7{at}


Objectives Recent evidence suggests that occupational physical activity (OPA) is associated with adverse cardiovascular health, whereas leisure time physical activity is protective. This study explored explanatory physiological mechanisms.

Methods Nineteen males (68% white, age=46.6±7.9 years, body mass index=27.9±5.1 kg/m2) with high self-reported OPA wore activity (ActiGraph and activPAL) and heart rate (HR) monitors for 7 days and an ambulatory blood pressure (BP) monitor on one workday and one non-workday. Mixed effects models compared cardiovascular variables (24-hour, nocturnal, waking and non-work time HR and BP) and nocturnal HR variability (HRV) on workdays versus non-workdays. Additional models examined associations of daily activity (steps, light physical activity (LPA) and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA)) with cardiovascular variables. Workday by daily activity interactions were examined.

Results 24-hour and waking HR and diastolic BP as well as non-work diastolic BP were significantly higher on workdays versus non-workdays (p<0.05 for all). However, no difference in systolic BP or nocturnal HR or BP was observed between work and non-workdays (p>0.05 for all). Low-frequency and high-frequency power indices of nocturnal HRV were lower on workdays (p<0.05 for both). Daily steps and LPA were positively associated with 24-hour and waking HR on work and non-workdays. Significant interactions suggested MVPA increases HR and lowers nocturnal HRV during workdays, with the opposite effect on non-workdays.

Conclusions Cardiovascular load was higher on workdays versus non-workdays with no compensatory hypotensive response following workdays. Daily MVPA may differentially affect ambulatory cardiovascular load and nocturnal HRV on workdays versus non-workdays, supporting the physical activity health paradox hypothesis.

  • workload
  • occupational Health
  • physical exertion
  • exercise
  • health promotion

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request.

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Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request.

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  • Contributors TDQ, CEK, EN and BBG contributed to analytical design development, analysis and manuscript authorship. LR and AA contributed to critical manuscript review and authorship.

  • Funding This study was funded School of Education’s Dissertation Research Grant Programme at the University of Pittsburgh.

  • Disclaimer The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Competing interests BBG discloses grant funding from the Agency for Healthcare Quality Research, the American Heart Association, the National Institutes of Health and the Tomayko Fund.

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

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.