A comparison of work-related physical activity levels between inpatient and outpatient physical therapists: an observational cohort trial
Ortiz, Alexis, Ph. D.
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Background: Physical therapists (PTs) work in a variety of healthcare settings with varied levels of physical activity demands placed on them. The purpose of this study is to compare the physical activity (PA) levels between PTs in inpatient versus outpatient environments for one work week using a cross-sectional design. Methods: Sixty-one PTs (30 inpatient, 31 outpatient) wore a tri-axial accelerometer and inclinometer for one workweek. The number steps-per-day, PA intensities, energy expenditures and postural positions adopted during the work day were recorded. Result: Significantly longer amounts of time spent sitting was found for inpatient PTs regardless of the significantly higher number of steps-per-day. Outpatient PTs had a higher number of breaks from sedentary activity with those breaks being longer than the inpatient PTs. The percentage of time spent performing moderate-vigorous PA approached significance implying more time was spent performing these types of activities for outpatient PTs. The energy expenditures between the two groups of PTs were not different. Conclusion: This study compared the differences in physical activity levels between physical therapists who worked at inpatient versus outpatient environment as little is known about their activity levels. Inpatient physical therapists took more steps per day than outpatient physical therapists but the outpatient physical therapists were less sedentary and took more frequent and longer breaks from sedentary activities. The energy expenditures were similar between both types of therapists and this may be reflective of the gender and bodyweight differences between the groups that equalizes the energy expenditures. The findings of this study suggests that there are differences in the physical activity demands between inpatient and outpatient physical therapists. The results of this study may serve dual purposes: (1) employers may be able to more accurately describe the expected physical activity demands to future employees; (2) individuals tasked with preparing PTs to physically manage their work environment can outline training programs that are diverse based on the specific work environment of PTs. *This article was published with the assistance of the Texas Woman's University Libraries Open Access Fund. The published version can be found at https://doi.org/10.1186/s13104-016-2119-y