OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to test the extent to which physical activity performed during work and leisure is associated with systemic inflammation.
METHODS: Data regarding job history and high-sensitivity C reactive protein (hs-CRP) levels, as well as potential confounders, came from the Copenhagen Aging and Midlife Biobank. The participants' self-reported job history was combined with a job exposure matrix to give a more valid assessment of cumulated occupational physical activity compared with conventional self-reported activity. Occupational physical activity was measured as cumulative ton-years (lifting 1000 kg each day for a year). Current leisure time physical activity was self-reported into four different categories. We analysed the association between occupational physical activity, current leisure time physical activity and hs-CRP level in a multivariable linear regression model with adjustment for age, sex, smoking history, number of chronic diseases, body mass index and alcohol.
RESULTS: In unadjusted analysis, higher occupational physical activity was associated with increased hs-CRP levels, while higher leisure time physical activity was associated with lower hs-CRP levels. In adjusted analysis, lower leisure time physical activity resulted in 12% higher hs-CRP levels while higher occupational physical activities showed a 6% increase in hs-CRP. When we analysed occupational and leisure time physical activity as continuous variables, only leisure time physical activity affected hs-CRP.
CONCLUSION: This study indicates that the relationship between physical activity and hs-CRP depends on the setting of physical activity, with lower hs-CRP related to leisure time physical activity and higher hs-CRP related to occupational physical activity. The results suggest that systemic inflammation may explain the physical activity paradox.