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Physically active workers risk an early death

16 May 2018

Job stress can take a toll on your health, and as it turns out, if your job is physically demanding, it could cause an early death.

The researchers concluded: "The results of this review indicate detrimental health consequences associated with high level occupational physical activity in men, even when adjusting for relevant factors (such as leisure time physical activity)".

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. There was no such link among women.

An global team of researchers led by Dr Pieter Coenen from the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, chose to carry out a systematic review of evidence regarding the association between occupational physical activity and all-cause mortality. Moderate physical activity can raise the heart rate and increase blood pressure just enough to strengthen the heart and the cardiovascular system.

Coenen believes that the type of physical activity one goes through at work and during the leisure break are both different from each other when it comes to exercising. "That may lead to the opposite of what is healthy for the heart, namely putting a strain on the cardiovascular system". Although the results might seem a little contradictory to all the advantages of exercising but according to Coenen, the studies were based on the leisure-time physical activity. "They are in double trouble", said Coenen.

To investigate the effects of exercise on health, the scientists combined the results from 17 published studies, giving them data on almost 200,000 people.

The study appears in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. "Even if you are physically active at work, that doesn't mean you don't have to be physically active in your leisure time", he said. Both of these exercises have different sets of physiological outcomes.

The authors described the new study as the first to find evidence consistent with the physical activity paradox in this systematic review with meta-analysis of studies with a large number of participants. "And people should be thinking about their lifestyles more generally, because that is likely to be at the root of this".

Physically active workers risk an early death