An Indiana University study has found that the perception of more exercise being equal to better fitness applies primarily to white women.
The study not only highlights factors like racial, ethnic and gender differences regarding exercise but also to the role work can play.
Obesity expert Dong-Chul Seo conducted a study amongst more than 12,000 people and found that obesity rates in general declined as the amount of weekly leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) increased.
"For the majority of health professionals, even health researchers, they say the more leisure-time physical activity you engage in, the less likely you'll get obese," said Seo, associate professor in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation's Department of Applied Health Science. "This is true, but it's probably only applicable to white women and some of the white men."
To solve the mystery, Seo conducted another analysis and found that men and Hispanic women are more likely to have manually demanding jobs than white women, which could affect the amount of LTPA they accumulate. For Hispanic women, their obesity rates dropped as their amount of occupational physical activity (OPA) increased. However, a different pattern was seen for men.
"This illustrates to me the importance of physical activity in the workplace," Seo said. "Workplace wellness programs should really be emphasized, especially for people who do sedentary work. To enhance their health, maybe employers could offer workout spaces and incentives to do physical activity during the work hours or right after. They can make it easier."
The study sample of 12,227 people was drawn from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data from 1999 to 2006. The participants are physically measured for height and weight rather than relying on self-reports.
According to Seo, the biggest decline is seen amongst women who met the guidelines, and those who took part in LTPA but fell short of guidelines.
The study is published in the May issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.