Regular exercise: Does physical activity in workplace count?

Regular exercise

Like it or not, we all know that regular exercise is important for a healthy life.

Currently scientists recommend 30 minutes moderate to high intensity physical activity every day, and each week the exercise time should be more than 150 minutes.

While the guideline is accurate on the exercise time, it is quite vague about what regular physical activity is.

Some people do daily work that involves intensive physical activity, does that count? Or one has to do the physical activity in his/her leisure time?

We don’t have clear answers for the questions. But recent studies show that high intensity physical activity in workplace can harm your health.

In a study newly published in BMJ, researchers from VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, decided to check how workplace activity influences people’s health.

They conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis on the published research.

To their surprise, the results showed that high-level physical activity during work was linked to higher risk of premature death.

Men with high level work physical activity had 18% higher risk of early death than men with low level work physical activity.

No such effects were found in women.

The finding seems to conflict with the current recommendation about regular physical activity.

One would assume that a job involving high level physical activity should be a good opportunity for improve health, because workers doesn’t need extra time to do exercise.

The researchers examined their data carefully and found a possible reason.

Jobs requiring high level physical activity usually involve tasks of manual handling, repetitive work and prolonged static postures.

These could elevate heart rate and blood pressure. Workers have to perform the tasks over long periods of time, but they don’t have enough time to recover.

The jobs can lead to chronic exhaustion and elevated resting blood pressure and heart rate. As a result, the workers may have increased risk for cardiovascular diseases.

People who have low physical activity jobs and do their exercise in their spare time, however, experience very different health effects.

First, their daily jobs do not involve tough physical tasks and hence do not hurt their heart and blood pressure.

Second, when they do exercise in leisure time, they can control exercise intensity and duration (usually short moderate or high intensity) and can have much longer recovery periods.

Therefore, they get better health.

The researchers suggest that work physical activity and leisure time physical activity should be considered differently. Both are highly important to people’s health, but they have very different impacts.

More research is needed to see while high work physical activity influences men and women differently.

For individuals, they need to know the health risk of their daily job and make the best exercise-rest plan that can minimize the risk.

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