Monitoring work-related physical activity and estimating lower-limb loading: a proof-of-concept study
Wang X., Perry TA., Caroupapoullé J., Forrester A., Arden NK., Hunter DJ.
Abstract Background Physical activity (PA) is important to general health and knee osteoarthritis (OA). Excessive workplace PA is an established risk factor for knee OA however, appropriate methods of measurement are unclear. There is a need to examine and assess the utility of new methods of measuring workplace PA and estimating knee load prior to application to large-scale, knee OA cohorts. Our aims, therefore, were to monitor workplace PA and estimate lower-limb loading across different occupations in health participants. Methods Twenty-four healthy adults, currently working full-time in a single occupation (≥ 35 h/week) and free of musculoskeletal disease, comorbidity and had no history of lower-limb injury/surgery (past 12-months) were recruited across New South Wales (Australia). A convenience sample was recruited with occupations assigned to levels of workload; sedentary, light manual and heavy manual. Metrics of workplace PA including tasks performed (i.e., sitting), step-count and lower-limb loading were monitored over 10 working days using a daily survey, smartwatch, and a smartphone. Results Participants of light manual occupations had the greatest between-person variations in mean lower-limb load (from 2 to 59 kg*m/s3). Lower-limb load for most participants of the light manual group was similar to a single participant in heavy manual work (30 kg*m/s3) and was at least three times greater than the sedentary group (2 kg*m/s3). The trends of workplace PA over working hours were largely consistent, per individual, but rare events of extreme loads were observed across all participants (up to 760 kg*m/s3). Conclusions There are large interpersonal variations in metrics of workplace PA, particularly among light and heavy manual occupations. Our estimates of lower-limb loading were largely consistent with pre-conceived levels of physical demand. We present a new approach to monitoring PA and estimating lower-limb loading, which could be applied to future occupational studies of knee OA.