If I Am Active At Work Do I Still Need to Exercise?


Studies reported the United States lost 1/3 of all manufacturing positions between 1999 and 2010. Many of these individuals have not returned to their prior manufacturing jobs and may have started more sedentary occupations. While prior U.S. generations relied upon their work to provide daily activity, more recent generations must actively pursue aerobic and strength training exercise to receive the incredible health benefits associated with consistent exercise. Individuals who continue to work in active jobs such as construction, shipping, or manufacturing often believe their jobs provide all the activity they need, but new research questions the ability for these occupational activity to meet each individual’s exercise requirements.

A review article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine discussed the available research on occupational activity and health benefits, as well as, made arguments as to why workers with more active occupations should exercise (Holtermann et al. 2018). Previous research in this area has shown occupational activity does not improve an individual’s health. Further, many studies have shown these individuals have poor health and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and early death.

Individuals in jobs with higher occupational activity often perform repetitive, low load movements with periods of heavy lifting and/or abnormal postures. This is in contrast to the shorter duration, higher intensity body movements associated with physical activity and exercise. Specifically, authors report aerobic capacity utlization of 30-35% and 60-80% between occupational activity and exercise, respectively, These lower aerobic intensities do not meet the minimal aerobic levels required for cardiovascular health benefits.

Aerobically trained individuals demonstrate decreased resting heart rate and blood pressure measurements compared to their sedentary peers. Conversely, research shows individuals involved in occupational active jobs demonstrate increased inflammation, heart rate, and blood pressure in the 24 hours following their shifts. If sustained, elevations in heart rate and blood pressure have been shown to be independent risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease. These increases may be explained in part due to the lack of adequate recovery following occupational activities. Resistance training participants take 1-2 days off between sessions while this category of workers often perform job duties longer hours over consecutive days within the work week. Based on these aforementioned factors, workers in these jobs are encouraged to meet the same weekly exercise goals as the general population.