Intensity levels of occupational activities related to hotel housekeeping in a sample of minority women

July 13, 2006


Stephen Intille, J. Herigon, W. Haskell, A. King, J. A. Wright, R. F. Friedman


Most current research on occupational physical activity utilizes basic recall measures of participant activity levels. Novel wireless measurement technologies synchronized with real-time annotation on mobile devices may permit more detailed study of physical activities in free-living settings. This study utilized novel technology to assess specific daily activities of housekeeping employees at a US hotel to empirically quantify physical activity levels. Methods: The heart rates (HR) of five female hotel housekeepers (mean age=43; 50% Hispanic origin; mean resting HR=67 bpm) were monitored during their performance of normal, daily cleaning responsibilities. HR data were wirelessly transmitted to a computer at 1 second intervals. Direct observation was used to code type of activity, posture, and other variables using a handheld computer synchronized with the HR data collection. Approximately 27 hours of HR data were coded and used for the analysis. Results: The majority of participants time was spent making beds (37%) and wiping/dusting (26%). Average HR across all activities ranged from 94-113 bpm. Average HR (sd) for each activity was: vacuum 105.6 (6.7), pushing carts 104.9 (7.9), mopping 103.4 (7.6), bed making 103.3 (9.4), scrubbing 101.2 (8.7), wiping/dusting 101.0 (9.2), other 100.1 (9.8), emptying trash 99.6 (8.6), and stacking 98.7 (5.5). The majority of activities did not reach a moderate intensity level defined as 40%-59% heart rate reserve. Conclusion: Low variation in HR was found among the activities, and the intensity levels were lower than expected. These findings suggest that housekeeping activities contribute less to health outcomes than previously thought.

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