Counting Activity at Work and Play

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If you had to fill out a survey of your week’s activity, would you include only those bouts of exercise at the gym or add in the dog walks? What about including darting around at the office or any heavy lifting you do at work?

Identifying people’s activity levels may not be as simple as asking them.

This week, a study came out that Mexican-Americans are the most active group in America, compared to non-Hispanic whites and African Americans. The results challenge previous findings and suggest that collecting physical activity information should include electronic devices, along with self-reports.

The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health; you can read the abstract here.

Researchers compared findings on physical activity from two major studies: one included measuring activity levels via devices called accelerometers, the other included only self-reports. In the accelerometer study, nearly 27 percent of Mexican-Americans met the national goal of getting at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week or vigorous activity for 20 minutes at least three days a week; about 20 percent of whites and 15 percent of African Americans achieved that level of exercise.

In the research based on self-reports, 36 percent of whites and 25 percent of African Americans and Mexican Americans said they met the activity standard.

One reason for the discrepancy may be that accelerometers can detect occupational time, note the authors, which is difficult to gather through self-reports.

When you think about how much activity you get, do you account for your typical daily activities? AICR recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily to lower cancer risk – but it doesn’t have to be all at once.

Take our quiz to rate your activity level.


Author: Mya Nelson

Mya R. Nelson is at American Institute for Cancer Research, where she writes about the research in the field.

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