The Old Order Amish refrain from driving automobiles, using electronic appliances, and employing other modern conveniences. In some of their communities, labor-intensive farming is still the principal occupation.
The purpose of this study was two-fold: (1) to characterize the physical activity (PA) levels in an Old Order Amish farming community and (2) to examine measures of adiposity in this group.
98 Amish adults (18–75 yrs of age) in southern Ontario were studied in June 2002. Anthropometric variables included height, weight, body mass index (BMI), and percent body fat (%BF) estimated by bioelectrical impedance. Participants were asked to wear an electronic pedometer for 7 days, and to fill out a log sheet on which they recorded steps/day and the activities they performed. At the end of the week, they returned the pedometers and log sheets, and filled out the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) short form.
The average number of steps/day was 18,425 for men versus 14,196 for women (P < 0.05). Men reported 10.0 hr/wk of vigorous PA, 42.8 hr/wk of moderate PA, and 12.0 hr/wk of walking. Women reported 3.4 hr/wk of vigorous PA, 39.2 hr/wk of moderate PA, and 5.7 hr/wk of walking. Men had higher levels of energy expenditure (METxmin/wk) than women (P < 0.05). Farming, gardening, and household chores were among the most common types of PA; practically no leisure-time PA was reported. 24.5% of the men and 26.7% of the women were overweight (BMI > or = 25), and 0% of the men and 8.9% of the women were obese (BMI > or = 30). The mean %BF was 9.4% in men and 25.3% in women.
The Amish we studied had very high levels of physical activity, which may contribute to their low prevalence of obesity. This group probably represents an upper extreme for “lifestyle PA” in North America.