Exercise, physical activity, and exertion over the business cycle
Shifts in time and income constraints over economic expansions and contractions would be expected to affect individuals' behaviors. We explore the impact of the business cycle on individuals' exercise, time use, and total physical exertion, utilizing information on 112,000 individual records from the 2003–2010 American Time Use Surveys. In doing so, we test a key causal link that has been hypothesized in the relation between unemployment and health, but not heretofore assessed. Using more precise measures of exercise (and other activities) than previous studies, we find that as work-time decreases during a recession, recreational exercise, TV-watching, sleeping, childcare, and housework increase. This, however, does not compensate for the decrease in work-related exertion due to job-loss, and total physical exertion declines. These effects are strongest among low-educated men, which is validating given that employment in the Great Recession has declined most within manufacturing, mining, and construction. We also find evidence of intra-household spillover effects, wherein individuals respond to shifts in spousal employment conditional on their own labor supply. The decrease in total physical activity during recessions is especially problematic for vulnerable populations concentrated in boom-and-bust industries, and may have longer-term effects on obesity and related health outcomes.
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Volume (Year): 93 (2013)
Issue (Month): C ()
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