Overall, people with higher incomes tend to be slightly more sedentary than those with low incomes, but many try to make up for it with rigorous exercise a few days a week — the so-called “weekend warrior.”
The findings are published in the journal Preventive Medicine.
Prior research has found that higher income individuals are more likely to be physically active at a higher intensity, but these studies have historically relied on self-reporting, which may exaggerate actual activity levels.
Information collected through activity monitors has shown less than five percent of U.S. adults meet physical activity recommendations, despite strong evidence supporting the link between physical activity and reduced risk for premature death and many diseases, including some cancers.
Research has also shown the harmful effects of prolonged sedentary behavior on health, effects that remain even when physical activity levels are taken into account.
Income has been shown to be a significant barrier to engaging in physical activity. For example, low-income individuals tend to face time constraints as well as other barriers, including lack of exercise facilities, parks, and open space, as well as an inflexible work environment, and have been shown to be less likely to meet physical activity guidelines.
Meanwhile, higher income individuals also have limited time, but tend to enjoy more resources and places to exercise, which could help them meet activity guidelines. However, they also are more likely to hold sedentary jobs, like office work.
The new study was led by researchers from the American Cancer Society in collaboration with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Georgia State University. Investigators used accelerometer data to evaluate physical activity and sedentary behavior in relation to income levels among 5,206 U.S. adults enrolled in The National Health and Examination Survey from 2003-06, a nationally representative survey.
The findings show that compared to those making less than $20,000 per year, people with an annual income of $75,000 or more engaged in 4.6 more daily minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity as measured by activity monitors.
High-income individuals also engaged in 9.3 fewer minutes of light intensity activity, spent 11.8 more minutes daily sedentary, were 1.6 times more likely to meet guidelines for a brief two day period (‘weekend warrior’), and were 1.9 times more likely to meet guidelines during a seven day period.
“Our findings pertaining to income and the ‘weekend warrior’ effect underscore the importance of tailoring the physical activity message to reflect the constraints of both low and high income individuals,” said Kerem Shuval at the American Cancer Society.
“To meet guidelines one can engage in 150 minutes of weekly moderate intensity activity over a two or three day period rather than seven days, for example. This can be achieved over a long weekend, a message we may want to convey to those pressed for time.”
“It is important to remember, however, that we should increase the duration and intensity of activity gradually to avoid injury. Also, if inactive consult with a physician before embarking on an exercise program.”
Source: American Cancer Society