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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.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Public Health

Publication Date





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