A novel study conducted by Srinivasan et al. and published in Economics & Human Biology looks at changes in physical activity patterns, specifically drudgery reduction, and how these changes might affect the energy requirements of both men and women in rural households in Ghana and India. The study, “Drudgery reduction, physical activity and energy requirements in rural livelihoods,” explains that drudgery reduction is the substitution of activities with moderate/vigorous/very vigorous energy intensity with activities that use light energy intensity. The study suggests a different route of improving nutritional status of people in these households by reducing drudgery and therefore, energy expenditure, instead of increasing dietary intakes or income as traditional methods have proposed.
Energy expenditure data were collected using accelerometers placed on men and women in low and middle-income households from Ghana (n=22) and India (n=20) in four non-consecutive weeks during four key agriculture phases. These data were integrated with time-use data and multiple 24-hour food intake recalls. Results suggest that changing patterns of physical activity is strongly associated with impacts on caloric adequacy and nutrition outcomes. In fact, one hour of drudgery reduction was associated with 11-22% reduction of energy (calorie) requirements for men and 13-17% reduction of energy (calorie) requirements for women. Results also show that there are significant gender differences in energy expenditure patterns and that socio-demographic characteristics and endowments of the household effect drudgery reduction. Interestingly, the study shows that even though women are responsible for a larger share of the household burden, men have a greater decrease in energy requirement per hour drudgery reduction. This is possibly because men and women have different labor roles and thus different physical activity patterns.
This study provides important insight for the future design of development interventions because though agricultural and rural development interventions may recognize that productivity-enhancing interventions can lead to an increase in physical activity and exertion, the relationship between nutrition impacts and energy expenditure is seldom accounted for. The results from this study show that changing patterns of physical activity can have significant impacts on caloric adequacy and nutrition outcomes. Productivity-enhancing interventions should consider their impacts on physical activity and food intake demands.
To read the full manuscript, please visit: “Drudgery reduction, physical activity and energy requirements in rural livelihoods.”
Srinivasan, C., Zanello, G., Nkegbe, P., Cherukuri, R., Picchioni, F., Gowdru, N., & Webb, P. (2020). Drudgery reduction, physical activity and energy requirements in rural livelihoods.