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Hours spent and energy expended in physical activity domains: Results from The Tomorrow Project cohort in Alberta, Canada

Ilona Csizmadi1*, Geraldine Lo Siou2, Christine M Friedenreich1, Neville Owen3 and Paula J Robson4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Population Health Research, Alberta Health Services-Cancer Care 1331-29 Street NW, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N2, Canada

2 Department of Population Health Research, Alberta Health Services - Cancer Care c/o Holy Cross Site, Box ACB, 2210 2nd Street SW, Calgary, AB, T2S 3C3, Canada

3 National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Principal Research Fellow Head, Behavioural Epidemiology, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Level 4, 99 Commercial Rd, Melbourne, VIC 3004, Australia

4 Department of Population Health Research, Alberta Health Services - Cancer Care Suite 1400, Sun Life Place, 10123 99th Street NW, Edmonton, AB, T5J 3H1, Canada

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:110  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-110

Published: 10 October 2011



Knowledge of adult activity patterns across domains of physical activity is essential for the planning of population-based strategies that will increase overall energy expenditure and reduce the risk of obesity and related chronic diseases. We describe domain-specific hours of activity and energy expended among participants in a prospective cohort in Alberta, Canada.


The Past Year Total Physical Activity Questionnaire was completed by 15,591 Tomorrow Project® participants, between 2001 and 2005 detailing physical activity type, duration, frequency and intensity. Domain-specific hours of activity and activity-related energy expenditure, expressed as a percent of total energy expenditure (TEE) (Mean (SD); Median (IQR)) are reported across inactive (<1.4), low active (1.4 to 1.59), active (1.6 to 1.89) and very active (≥ 1.9) Physical Activity Level (PAL = TEE:REE) categories.


In very active women and amongst all men except those classified as inactive, activity-related energy expenditure comprised primarily occupational activity. Amongst inactive men and women in active, low active and inactive groups, activity-related energy expenditure from household activity was comparable to, or exceeded that for occupational activity. Leisure-time activity-related energy expenditure decreased with decreasing PAL categories; however, even amongst the most active men and women it accounted for less than 10 percent of TEE. When stratified by employment status, leisure-time activity-related energy expenditure was greatest for retired men [mean (SD): 10.8 (8.5) percent of TEE], compared with those who were fully employed, employed part-time or not employed. Transportation-related activity was negligible across all categories of PAL and employment status.


For the inactive portion of this population, active non-leisure activities, specifically in the transportation and occupational domains, need to be considered for inclusion in daily routines as a means of increasing population-wide activity levels. Environmental and policy changes to promote active transport and workplace initiatives could increase overall daily energy expenditure through reducing prolonged sitting time.

physical activity; energy expenditure; sedentary behaviour; Canada; occupation; leisure-time; transportation