Why being too active at work can be unsafe for your health

Men who are highly physically active during their working day may be at an increased risk of early death researchers have warned. File image

Intensive physical activity related to a physically demanding job can instead become a burden to the heart. He points to a study a year ago of half a million people in China that found physical activity had health benefits whether it was at work or in leisure time.

If a person does not practice exercise on a daily basis, he or she can get into the health problems like obesity, heart diseases, diabetes, dementia, etc.

Pieter Coenen - of the Vrije Universiteit University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands - alongside several global scholars recently set out to analyze existing evidence indicating that occupational physical activity actually increases the risk of premature death from all causes.

An global team of researchers led by Pieter Coenen carried out a on evidence linking occupational physical activity and all-cause mortality.

"Until recently", the researchers note, "the health effects associated with different domains of [physical activity] were considered to be alike and beneficial".

The finding, from scientists in the Netherlands, reveals an apparent "physical activity paradox" where exercise can be harmful at work but beneficial to health when performed in leisure time.

According to a recent study conducted by researchers from the VU University Medical Center, men who have highly physical jobs have a much higher risk of dying early when compared to those who have mostly desk jobs.

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Worldwide public health guidelines encourage people to spend half an hour a day on moderate to intense physical activity to keep healthy, but previous research has shown that those who work in construction and other physically demanding jobs are the least likely to exercise in their leisure time. Individuals at risk, the researchers note, tend to be "blue collar", or manual, workers.

The research showed that men that have a high level of physical activity associated with their jobs has an 18% higher chance of early death compared to those who's jobs had low levels of physical activity.

Even after accounting for exercise during leisure time, the link remained in place.

The results might seem contradictory to all of the data that documents the benefits of exercise, but Coenen says that those studies focused on leisure-time physical activity. This association, however, was "non-significant", as Coenen and colleagues write.

They said that if the finding was proved to be causal, then physical activity guidelines should differentiate between workplace and leisure exercise.

The systematic review and meta-analysis are, their authors say, the first of their kind to emphasize the different health outcomes afforded by different domains of physical activity.


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