Exercise is more than medicine: The working age population's well-being and productivity

Gisela Sjøgaard, Jeanette Reffstrup Christensen, Just Bendix Justesen, Mike Murray, Tina Dalager, Gitte Hansen Fredslund, Karen Søgaard

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperReviewResearchpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Physical activity (PA) includes muscle activity during exercise, manual work, and leisure time activities including sport. Conflicting results exist regarding health effects of PA that may deteriorate with manual work and elite sports, but improve when performed in moderation in accordance with international guidelines and may additionally enhance well-being and productivity.

METHODS: In Denmark 15 randomized controlled trials have been conducted, introducing exercise at the workplace enrolling >3500 workers. The interventions lasted from 10 to 52 weeks and offered ~1 h weekly supervised exercise during working hours according to the concept of intelligent physical exercise training (IPET) that is based on evidenced sports sciences training principles and tailored to work exposure, employee health status, and physical capacity. Questionnaire surveys and health checks including blood and muscle sampling were performed at baseline and follow-up. The job groups included: office and computer workers, dentists, industrial technicians, cleaning personnel, health care workers, construction workers, and fighter/helicopter pilots.

RESULTS: In all job groups significant improvements were documented regarding health outcomes. These were job group specific: neck pain was reduced among office and computer workers, dentists, industrial laboratory technicians, health care workers as well as fighter pilots. Cardio-respiratory fitness-a health risk indicator for cardio-metabolic diseases-was improved among office and computer workers, health care workers, and construction workers. Additionally, other improvements were evidenced such as increased muscle strength and balance control. Importantly, productivity increased with improved muscle strength and decreased body mass index.

CONCLUSION: IPET does enhance health if an exercise program with evidenced efficacy is implemented by expert trainees with support of the employer. Accordingly, in every study group outcomes of improved health were documented and the effect sizes were of clinical relevance. Cost effectiveness estimates indicate acceptable cost relative to savings on health expenses and lost productivity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Sport and Health Science
Pages (from-to)159-165
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


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