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Why ‘physically active’ jobs don’t count for ‘physical activity’

We often see patients in the clinic who work physically demanding jobs, but this doesn’t always seem to correlate with their physical health and fitness. I guess if makes sense, if that were the case, why weren’t all farmers, mechanics or builders ripped and toned?

Holtermann et al have looked into the difference between ‘Occupational Physical Activity’  versus ‘Leisure Time Physical Activity’ and why in fact they did not produce the same results. Manual, labour intensive jobs often involve sustained low to moderate intensity, long duration activities. This results in prolonged elevated heart rate and prolonged elevated blood pressure (both increase the risk of CVD). In comparison – formal exercise see’s heart rate and blood pressure rise but afterwards it returns to a resting rate.

Occupational physical activity is usually performed over longer periods of time, say 8 or more hours a day, 5 or more days a week. The remaining time, is insufficient for proper recovery of the body and body systems. It’s essentially the same as athletes ‘overtraining’. And overtraining that reoccurs week after week. This results in a sustained increase in inflammatory markers without that sufficient recovery, which has also been associated with increased risk of CVD.

Occupational activity also usually involves performing poor techniques in awkward postures, with the addition of psychosocial stressors and uncontrolled environmental situations – extreme heat/cold in full PPE. With voluntary exercise, people usually have some form of control environmentally – and have control over attire. Movements performed are also dynamic, targeted and specific tasks.

Enhance Physiotherapy are experts in creating strength and exercise programs to suit you and your goals!


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