Physical activity associates with the income level of middle-aged people

A recent study conducted in Oulu indicates that physical activity associates with mid-life earned income. The researchers found that increasing physical activity associated with increasing income up to a certain point, after which the association was reversed. The highest income were achieved by people who accumulated about 8.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week, such as walking, or just over 3.5 hours of vigorous physical activity, such as running. On the other hand, physical activity above that was associated with lower income.

Physical activity has many known health benefits. That said, very high levels of physical activity are known to increase the risk of injury, cardiovascular diseases, and even premature death.

“From the earned income point of view, it is beneficial for middle-aged people to engage in physical activity, but they should keep the amount of exercise reasonable,” says head researcher Hanna Junttila, a Doctoral Researcher at the University of Oulu.

Physical activity is also linked to, for example, memory, cooperation and networking skills and other skills that help people to succeed in working life. On the other hand, a very high amount of exercise reduces the time available for work, supplementary training and skills development.

The results are also interesting for the decision-makers. “In the light of our research, measures to promote physical activity should be targeted especially at physically inactive individuals,” Junttila says. According to Junttila, further research is still needed to investigate the connection between physical activity and productivity using indicators other than earned income.

The study was participated in by almost 2,800 people from the cohort born in Northern Finland in 1966. A slightly higher proportion of the subjects were female. The people’s physical activity was measured at the age of 46 with an accelerometer, with the Incomes Register of the Finnish Tax Administration used to map the earned income at the age of 50.

The study is part of the SEPAS project examining the economic consequences of physical activity and sedentary behaviour on society, employers and individuals. The study combines the population-based Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 data with individual-level data collected from national registers on direct (use of health services) and indirect (earned income, absences from work) costs.

The project is being carried out in cooperation between the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Oulu and Oulu Business School, the Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine at the Oulu Deaconess Institute Foundation sr., and the Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics (JSBE). The study is funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Research publication: Junttila, HE, Vaaramo, MM, Huikari, SM, et al. Association of accelerometer-measured physical activity and midlife income: A Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 Study. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2023; 00: 1–14.

Read also: Absences from work increase the price tag of physical inactivity
Research group: Physical activity and health across the lifespan

Last updated: 21.6.2023