BACKGROUND: Domain-specific physical activities may have different correlates and health effects, but few large studies have examined these questions, especially their separate associations with adiposity. METHODS: We analysed cross-sectional data of 466 605 adults without any prior chronic diseases, enrolled during 2004-8, from 10 diverse localities across China. Physical activity level in each of 4 domains (occupation, commuting, household, and active-recreation), calculated as metabolic equivalent (MET)-hr/day, was related to social-demographic factors and measures of adiposity (body mass index [BMI], waist circumference [WC], and bio-impedance derived percentage body fat), using multivariable linear and logistic regression models. RESULTS: The overall mean age was 50.8 years. The mean total physical activity was 21.7 MET-hr/day, mainly from occupation (62%) and household chores (26%), but little from active-recreation (4%), with women having a much higher household activity than men. Older participants had a lower level of occupational activity but a higher level of household and active-recreational activity, particularly after retirement. There was no linear association of occupational activity with adiposity, but working women tended to have a lower adiposity (e.g. 1.0 cm WC) than non-working women. In men, there was an inverse and apparently linear association between adiposity and levels of both commuting-related and household activities, with 3 MET-hr/day associated with -0.11 and -0.13 kg/m(2) BMI, -0.42 and -0.62 cm WC, and -0.28 and -0.33 percentage points of body fat, respectively. In women, only household activity showed a linear, but weaker, association with adiposity. A higher adiposity was observed among men and women with higher levels of active-recreational activity. CONCLUSIONS: In Chinese adults, physical activity mainly involves occupation and housework, with little from active-recreational activity. Domain-specific physical activities varied by socio-demographic factors and had different associations with adiposity.

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BMC Public Health

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Activities of Daily Living, Adipose Tissue, Adiposity, Adult, Aged, Body Mass Index, China, Cross-Sectional Studies, Demography, Exercise, Female, Housekeeping, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Motor Activity, Obesity, Occupations, Recreation, Retirement, Sedentary Lifestyle, Waist Circumference, Work