Manual labourers that are physically active all day could have an increased risk of dying early.
Researchers at the UV University Medical Centre in Amsterdam have found that whilst exercise is good for people, occupations that involve a lot of manual labour could increase early mortality in men by as much as 18%. The findings were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and based on 17 studies from between 1960 and 2010 that involved around 200,000 people.
The researchers found that the difference between spare time exercise and physical work activities is the amount of rest involved. People often run for 30 minutes or do an hour’s gym workout, after which they rest. Workers can work eight hours a day with limited rest breaks.
Pieter Caenen, a public health researcher at VU University, said that continuous physical working that involves repetitive movements, lifting, and manual handling may inhibit the cardiovascular system, instead of boosting it which traditional exercise does. He said:
“Physical guidelines should differentiate between occupational and leisure physical activity.”
The research took socioeconomic factors into consideration such as smoking and alcohol consumption, but some experts have criticised the report for not looking at more factors.
If the researchers are correct about the dangers of prolonged exercise, this could mean that employers should provide more frequent and longer breaks for workers in physically active occupations. Companies could also purchase more manual handling equipment to reduce the amount of heavy lifting that workers are expected to perform.