Over the past few years there has been no end of debate and discussion around work/life balance. The general consensus is that to ensure we are as productive as possible at work, we need to be well rested and stress free before we enter the office each day.
The weekends therefore are crucial periods of time for rest and relaxation. Of course, that might not actually be what many of us use them for. A recent study suggests that, far from using the weekends to relax, most people with a university degree are actually busier on the weekends than they are during the week.
"Educational attainment predicts physical activity differently on weekends and weekdays," the researchers say. "Importantly, we focus not simply on total time people are engaged in recommended levels of physical activity, but the quality of the activity by focusing on the average levels of activity intensity per minute by day. An understanding of the factors that reduce time spent in low intensity or sedentary behaviors can inform activity intervention measures and could potentially reduce socioeconomic status differences in preventable morbidity and mortality."
This is at odds with the perception that it is often work that gets in the way of our leisure activities. This research suggests something altogether more complex.
The researchers trawled through accelerometer data, which measure the number of steps we take each day, from the 2005 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. This survey looks at both how many steps people take, and how intense those steps are. This focus on exercise intensity aims to provide a more accurate gauge of the time spent doing nothing, moderate exercise and vigorous exercise.
How physical are your weekends?
The study found a fascinating link between the educational level of an individual and their physical activity throughout the week.
"Education affects people both at the individual level and at their social level," they say. "Physical activity is encouraged or discouraged in different groups."
It emerged that those of us with a university degree would spend on average 8.72 hours per day doing nothing physical, compared to 7.48 hours for those without a high school diploma.
That is perhaps not surprising as manual work tends to be physically harder, but the trend was reversed at weekends. The weekends would see those with a university degree engaging in 8.12 hours of sedentary activity per day, which still seems a lot, but is less than on weekdays.
Those without a high school diploma however would spend 7.86 hours per day engaged in sedentary activity, which, whilst still less than their university educated peers, was more than they spent during week days.
The researchers believe that their findings could be useful for healthcare groups looking to target specific health messages at segments of the population.
"You have to be flexible. We have to give people different ideas," the researchers conclude. "We have to have discussions on what works for some and what works for others."
What about you? How physically active do you tend to be on your weekends? Please comment.