On The Job Labor May Help Workers Stay Fit

As you may have suspected, young men and women who have jobs requiring them to perform heavy physical labor are more likely to be physically fit than their peers who merely push papers, says a new study.

The study, published in the January issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, involved 2,188 men and 1,987 women who went through physical fitness tests and were interviewed about the physically demanding aspects of their jobs. The study found that both men and women who engaged in heavy physical labor had better cardiorespiratory fitness than their white-collar peers. This was true even when the researchers took into account the workers’ leisure-time physical activity and body size. Men who performed heavy manual work on the job had greater handgrip strength and trunk muscle endurance than men who performed less taxing work.

It is not clear what types of on-the-job activities may help maintain physical fitness, researchers say. Some work may be too “one-sided and static” and may have an “overloading rather than a training effect on the cardiorespiratory system.”

They add, “Regular monitoring of workers’ fitness at an early phase is justified to enable assessment of workers’ capacity for heavy jobs and any possible need for fitness-improving activities.”

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