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Physical exercise helps the heart, but can crafts hurt?

Physical exercise helps the heart, but can crafts hurt?

May 12, 2021 – Not all exercises are created equal exercise the work you get at leisure is better than your physical exercise for the health of your heart. In fact, physical at work exercise it can be really harmful heart health, according to a study published in April.

The difference between leisure and physical exercise in the workplace is a phenomenon sometimes called the “paradox of physical activity,” author Andreas Holtermann, a doctor at the Danish National Center for Work Environment Research in Copenhagen, told WebMD.

“Our findings suggest that clinicians, patients, and managers should be aware that having a job that requires manual physical activity would not improve the physical condition and health of staff, and that physical exercise should be encouraged in leisure,” he said. he says.

Do the Exercise Instructions apply to everyone?

According to the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, physical activity is essential for maintaining and improving health, but these guidelines do not distinguish between recreational and occupational physical activity. Some research has suggested that the physical activity required at work does not provide the same benefits and also increases heart risk.

These previous studies were not sufficient to provide specific conclusions. Also, “a large portion of the evidence for physical activity and health among recreational white-collar populations is recreational physical activity,” says Holtermann. The question is whether they apply to work exercises in other groups.

To find out the differences between labor and leisure activities, Holtermann and his team used data from 104,046 adults (aged 20 to 100) who participated in the Copenhagen General Population Survey from 2003 to 2014. The larger area of ​​Copenhagen, which included high-income and low-income regions.

Participants indicated their physical and leisure activity, demographics, lifestyle, medical information, and living conditions. They also did height, weight, rest, physical examination blood pressure, and heartbeat. Participants were monitored for an average of 10 years.

Quantity vs. Quality

During the follow-up period, 9,846 deaths were from all causes (9.5% of participants) and 7,913 major cardiac events, such as fatal or non-fatal. heart attacks or strokes (7.6% of participants).

High levels of recreational activity were associated with a lower risk of cardiac events and a lower risk of death. But a lot of physical activity at work was associated with more chances of having a heart attack and stroke and a higher risk of death.

Holtermann says the findings could be “surprising,” given the World Health Organization’s recommendation that “every step serves to achieve better health.”

However, he has “many years of experience” measuring the demands of physical activity placed on artisans and “has extensive experience in discussing this issue with workers and managers, unions, workplaces and policy makers.”

For people who work in these settings, “it’s not new to have different health effects from physical activity at work.” But many don’t “consider the guidelines for them, but for white higher education workers,” he says.

He noted other differences between work and leisure exercises.

“I think the most important difference is the huge difference in dose – often working 6 to 8 hours of physical activity in a row several days in a row, 30 to 60 minutes a few days a week compared to leisure,” he says.

Controversial findings

A publication by Dr. Martin Halle and Dr. Melanie Heitkamp, ​​both of the Technical University of Munich in Germany, examines the findings of the study.

“Evidence from many populations and continents has generally and consistently shown that regular physical activity has beneficial effects on cardiovascular health and early death, a scientific finding that is widely implemented in WHO guidelines. [World Health Organization] as well as the European Society of Cardiology, ”they write.

The editorial, however, suggests possible explanations for the “paradox of physical activity” found in current research. Recreational exercise can often be more aerobic, while workouts can be “a repetitive endurance exercise for short sessions and often not enough recovery time.”

Moreover, “workers in heavy manual labor may be affected by psychological factors (e.g., night shifts and environmental stressors, such as noise or air pollution),” they speculate.

Interpret Caution

Dr. Genevieve Dunton, a professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Psychology at the University of Southern California, also had reservations about the implications of the study, saying the results should be “interpreted with caution.”

Although “there is a compelling argument that physical activity at work offers cardiovascular benefits over leisure activities … the data may not support the claim that physical activity at work alone is detrimental to cardiovascular health,” he says.

The study ignores two factors that may “explain the observed association” and were not considered by the researchers: emotional responses to emotional activity and overall psychological stress.

“Individuals may have more positive emotional responses … in leisure and physical activity at work, which may lead to more mental health benefits and a lower risk of cardiovascular events / deaths,” he says.

He also says that those who work in manual labor have more psychological stress than those who have the time and resources to engage in recreational physical exercise.

Dunton says that regardless of this emotional stress, “we need to be very tempted to claim that physical activity at work increases cardiovascular risk and the risk of death.”

Triple Burden

Regarding the study for WebMD, Andrew Freeman, MD, president of the American Cardiology of Nutrition and Lifestyle Work Group, says that while physical activity (including exercise at work) is helpful, “dedicated physical activity is good for the heart, mind, and body, and that’s probably the most important point of this study “.

Workplace exercise is often stressful and is also associated with work-related responsibilities. “Exercising for a while -“ this is for me ”- and especially being outdoors in the wild, where a lot of people walk or run, is good for cardiovascular health,” he says.

Holtermann agrees, noting that physical activity at work is controlled through the production of labor, saying that recreational exercise is tailored to personal needs, motivations, and contexts.

“People with unhealthy manual labor also have fewer resources and opportunities, which is a triple burden that can play an important role in explaining the socioeconomic gap in health,” he says.

WebMD Health News


Andreas Holtermann, PhD, National Center for Work Environment Research, Copenhagen, Denmark.

World Health Organization: “Guidelines for WHO Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior”.

Andrew Freeman, MD, President, Working Group on Nutrition and Lifestyle, American College of Cardiology.

Genevieve Dunton, PhD, Professor, Department of Preventive Medicine and Psychology, University of Southern California.

JAMA: “Physical Activity Guidelines for the United States.”

European Heart Journal: “The Paradox of Physical Activity in Cardiovascular Disease and the Death Rate of All Causes: A Study of the Current Copenhagen General Population with 104,046 Adults,” “Preventing Cardiovascular Disease: Is ‘Every Step Worth’ Working?”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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