Sunday, 11 May 2014

Exercise v Manual Work

Exercise or Manual Work?

Strenuous occupational physical activity in midlife increases the risk of mobility limitation in old age, whereas leisure-time physical activity decreases the risk. This is found in a study which followed up 5,200 public sector employees for 28 years. The study was conducted at the Gerontology Research Center in Finland and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Heavy physical labour is often repetitive, wears the body and lasts for several hours a day. On the contrast, leisure-time physical activity is designed to improve fitness and provide recreation and a typical exercise session lasts for one or two hours. Even though both are based on muscle activity and result in energy expenditure, their long-term consequences are different.

The functional ability in old age is a result of processes which may have started already in midlife - some of them have supported the health of the person while others may have been detrimental to the health. The current research results suggest that a marked decline in mobility occurs only in the last years of life.

The results were published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The research was funded by the Academy of Finland.
This study highlights the effect of our daily work on our physical health. I see many clients (especially those in nursing) with low back pain from degenerative conditions which have been caused by lifting during their working life. I would expect that we will see many more problems with the thoracic spine from the next generation to reach retirement as so many people spend their work life bent over a computer screen or sitting in the car.

Exercise to correct the muscular imbalances created by work positions will be increasingly important to prevent pain later in life. I would suggest that if you have limited time it is more beneficial to work on achieving good posture through muscular support rather than doing exercises just to ‘be fit’.

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