An examination of compensation effects in accelerometer-measured occupational and non-occupational physical activity

Jennifer L. Gay, David M. Buchner, Jessalyn Smith, Chunla He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Self-report data suggests a large proportion of total physical activity (PA) occurs at work. However, adults with higher levels of occupational PA may compensate by engaging in less non-occupational PA. The study aims were to 1) estimate the intensity, volume, and duration of PA in American adults that occurs at work, and 2) determine if those more active at work are less active outside of work. A cross-sectional sample of full-time employed adults (N = 510) was recruited from Georgia city and county governments in 2013–2015. Participants wore an Actigraph GT3X + accelerometer for two weeks. In 2016, for 442 participants with complete data including work schedules and self-reported job titles, accelerometer wear minutes were classified as either occupational or non-occupational, and as sedentary, LPA (light-intensity PA), or MVPA (moderate-to-vigorous intensity PA). The proportion of daily PA that occurred during work was 41.2% for total PA, 41.0% for LPA, and 39.5% for MVPA. Higher levels of occupational LPA were associated with lower levels of non-occupational LPA (r = − 0.38, P < 0.0001). However, higher levels of occupational MVPA were associated with higher levels of non-occupational MVPA (r = 0.17, P < 0.0001). These associations remained significant in a MANOVA adjusting for labor sector and other covariates. On average, employed adults get more LPA and MVPA outside of work. Adults who do more occupational MVPA do not compensate by doing less non-occupational MVPA. In contrast, adults who do more occupational LPA do compensate by doing less non-occupational LPA. Evaluations of interventions to reduce sedentary behavior should be designed to detect compensation effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-59
Number of pages5
JournalPreventive Medicine Reports
StatePublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Accelerometer
  • Intensity
  • Work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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