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Leisure time but not occupational physical activity significantly affects cardiovascular risk factors in an adult population


  • Department of Medical and Surgical Critical Care, Thrombosis Centre; Centre for the study at molecular and clinical level of chronic, degenerative and neoplastic diseases to DEvelop NOvel THErapies, University of Florence, Italy (F. Sofi, A. Capalbo, R. Marcucci, A.M. Gori, S. Fedi, R. Abbate, G.F. Gensini); Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation, IRCCS, Florence (C. Macchi, G.F. Gensini); Department of Clinical Pathophysiology, Unit of Nutrition, University of Florence, Italy; Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Careggi, Florence, Italy (A. Casini, C. Surrenti); Institute of Sports Medicine, Florence, Italy (A. Capalbo).

Andrea Capalbo, MD, Department of Medical and Surgical Critical Care, Thrombosis Centre, University of Florence. Viale Morgagni 85, 50134 Florence, Italy. Tel.: 055-7949420; fax: 055-7949418; e-mail:


Background  A large number of studies have demonstrated that regular physical activity during leisure time (LTPA) accounts for a significant protection against cardiovascular diseases (CVD). On the other hand, conflicting findings on the beneficial effects of occupational physical activity (OPA) have been reported. The aim of this study is to evaluate the possible influence of different amounts of LTPA and OPA on circulating levels of several parameters associated with an increased risk of CVD.

Materials and methods  We studied 932 individuals (365 M; 567 F, with a mean age of 54 years) living in Florence, Italy, who were enrolled in a population study conducted between 2002 and 2004. Subjects were divided into three classes of LTPA and OPA according to a score derived from a questionnaire that assessed the amount of physical activity performed.

Results  LTPA was inversely related to body mass index (BMI), hip circumference, diastolic blood pressure and triglycerides, as well as directly correlated with high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Likewise, a higher OPA was found to be associated with higher HDL cholesterol levels. Moreover, a multivariate logistical regression analysis, adjusted for possible confounders, showed that a moderate-to-high intensity of LTPA was able to confer a significant protection against having abnormal levels of BMI, waist circumference and triglycerides, main features of the metabolic syndrome, whereas no associations between these parameters and OPA were observed.

Conclusions  A moderate-to-high LTPA was found to be significantly associated with a more favourable cardiovascular risk profile in terms of anthropometric, metabolic and lipid parameters among an Italian population. In addition, a relationship between OPA and HDL-cholesterol was reported.