PloS one 2017 05 0412(5) e0176872 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0176872
Illness-related absenteeism is a major threat to work productivity. Our objective was to assess the relationship between physical activity and unplanned illness-related absenteeism from work.
We implemented physical activity program for sedentary non-clinician employees of a tertiary medical center. Financial rewards were available for reaching accelerometer-measured ambulatory physical activity goals over a 24-week period. We categorized participants into three groups based on mean levels of physical activity: low (0-74 min/week), medium (75-149 min/week) and meeting CDC guidelines (≥150 min/week). We built a multivariable Poisson regression model to evaluate the relationship between physical activity and rates of unplanned illness-related absenteeism.
The sample consisted of 292 employees who participated in the program. Their mean age was 38 years (SD 11), 83% were female, and 38% were obese. Over the 24 intervention weeks, participants engaged in a mean of 90 min/week (SD 74) of physical activity and missed a mean of 14 hours of work (SD 38) due to illness. Unplanned absenteeism due to illness was associated with physical activity. As compared to the group meeting CDC guidelines, in multivariable analyses those in the medium physical activity group had a 2.4 (95% CI 1.3-4.5) fold higher rate of illness-related absenteeism and those in the lowest physical activity group had a 3.5 (95% CI 1.7-7.2) fold higher rate of illness-related absenteeism.
Less physical activity was associated with more illness-related absenteeism. Workforce-based interventions to increase physical activity may thus be a promising vehicle to reduce unplanned illness-related absenteeism.