Different types of workplace exercise programs yield multiple benefits
According to a recent study, these programs can have multiple benefits, including reduced neck and shoulder pain for employees who perform all-around exercise and lowered heart disease and stroke risk factors for those who do strength training.
In the study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark randomly assigned more than 800 office workers to two exercise groups. One group did all-around exercise, such as aerobics and walking. The other group did strength training, focusing on the shoulder and cervical spine (neck) muscles. Both programs included one hour of supervised exercise per week during working hours. A third group received no exercise program at work.
Mogens T. Pedersen, lead author of the study, said cardiovascular risk factors -- including blood pressure and body fat -- decreased not only in workers assigned to aerobic exercise, but also in those who did strength training. The average reduction in blood pressure was large enough to lead to a 25 percent reduction in stroke risk.
Both types of exercise also reduced back and shoulder pain -- by about 30 percent, compared to the group who did not exercise. All of these benefits, researchers said, were achieved despite relatively small improvements in overall physical fitness.
Neither form of exercise significantly improved general health or work productivity, the study concluded. Researchers said this may have been because, as a group, the workers were healthy and highly productive at the start of the study.
Previous studies have shown benefits of workplace exercise programs, but Pedersen said it is unclear which types of exercise are most efficient in achieving certain health outcomes. However, the study concluded that both strength training and all-around exercise can be a valuable part of exercise programs. Researchers said the results suggest "transfer effects," with both types of physical activity improving both neck/shoulder pain and cardiovascular risk factors.
"These positive health-related adaptations occurred in spite of relatively small changes in physical capacity," Pedersen said.
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August 31, 2009
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