An evaluation of the relationship between physical activity and presenteeism among employees from a public university system

Timothy J Walker, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Physical activity is a key component of worksite health and wellness programs due to the numerous associated health benefits. Recent studies suggest aerobic physical activity may also be associated with health-related work limitations, which is an indicator of on-the-job lost productivity (also known as presenteeism). Given the high cost of presenteeism, there is a need to gain a more in depth understanding of the potential relationship with physical activity. Therefore, the aims of this dissertation were to evaluate: 1) the association between aerobic physical activity, muscle strengthening physical activity, and stretching behavior with presenteeism; 2) whether a combination of physical activity types had an additive effect on presenteeism; and 3) the longitudinal relationship between aerobic physical activity and presenteeism. ^ Secondary de-identified data from self-reported employee health assessments were provided by a large university system and used to answer research questions. Respondents included in analyses were full time, benefits eligible employees who were at least 18 years of age. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses were performed.^ Results from cross-sectional analyses indicated aerobic physical activity was inversely related to presenteeism. There was also suggestive evidence of an inverse association between muscle strengthening physical activity and presenteeism. However, no association was observed with stretching behavior. When analyzing the additive effect between physical activity types, result revealed employees who participated in a combination of aerobic and muscle strengthening physical activity had the lowest reported levels of presenteeism. Lastly, when evaluating the longitudinal relationship, results revealed that changes in physical activity were associated with changes in presenteeism. ^ These findings suggest physical activity is a key health behavior for employers to target for controlling and reducing presenteeism. More specifically, results support promoting physical activity consistent with recommendations from the US Physical Activity Guidelines Committee Report to have the greatest impact on presenteeism. This recommendation suggests participating in 150 minutes per week of moderate or 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity in combination with two or more days of muscles strengthening physical activity.^

Subject Area

Health sciences

Recommended Citation

Walker, Timothy J, "An evaluation of the relationship between physical activity and presenteeism among employees from a public university system" (2016). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI10183281.