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Long overdue remarriage for better physical activity advice for all: bringing together the public health and occupational health agendas
  1. Andreas Holtermann1,
  2. Leon Straker2,
  3. I-Min Lee3,
  4. Allard J van der Beek4,
  5. Emmanuel Stamatakis5
  1. 1 Department of musculoskeletal disorders and physical workload, National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. 2 School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  3. 3 Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School; Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4 Amsterdam UMC, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Department of Public and Occupational Health, Amsterdam Public Health research institute, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  5. 5 Charles Perkins Centre, Faculty of Medicine and Health, School of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Andreas Holtermann, Department of Musculoskeletal disorders and physical workload, National Research Centre for the Working Environment, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark; aho{at}

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Unhappy relationship?

People’s physical activity (PA) throughout an entire day is a key determinant of health. Health is not only influenced by PA of moderate-to-vigorous intensity (MVPA), but also by lighter intensity, as well as daily doses of sitting and standing. Thus, PA (and its absence) in any domain of the day should not be ignored in the investigation and promotion of health. We therefore think it is unfortunate that two complementary research disciplines—public health and occupational health—have essentially been incommunicado divorcees for the past 60 years.

PA research in public and occupational health started united during the 1950s—recall the studies of work-related PA by Morris (London bus drivers)1 and Paffenbarger (San Francisco longshoremen).2 Today, however, the two fields rarely engage in meaningful collaboration. Work-related PA was barely mentioned in the US 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report,3 as ‘Most of the research findings summarized for this report are based on studies of leisure time PA’.3

In this editorial, we answer the question ‘Where did it all go wrong?’ and recommend ways for ‘remarrying’ the disciplines in order to develop coherent advice for adults from all walks of life.

Where did it all go wrong?

There are three reasons for the diverged directions of public and occupational health. First, the two disciplines operate in silos, and understand and interpret PA differently; this leads to different PA health advice for people …

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  • Twitter @profHoltermann, @M_Stamatakis

  • Contributors AH wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors contributed, discussed and accepted the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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