The health paradox: not every form of exercise is healthy

Those with a physical job usually move a lot during working hours. Yet these are often the employees struggling with all manner of physical complaints, from backache to cardiovascular disease. This can partly be explained by the so-called health or exercise paradox. But how do you quash this paradox as an employer?

What is the health paradox?

Not every form of exercise is good for the body. Frequent lifting, repetitive movements, and strained postures at work are not at all healthy, and can cause a whole host of physical complaints in the long term, such as backache.

As well as the movement itself, work context and workload also play a role. Having to meet a deadline or follow a production process can lead to movement with a negative impact on health.

Screen work vs. physically demanding job

On average, VDU-workers move less during a working day. They are usually already aware of their sedentary behaviour. Result: their motivation to get enough exercise in their free time is much higher. After a day of work, they are also less physically tired than employees with a physical job.

In contrast, employees with an active job already move a lot during working hours. This means they sometimes feel little need to do so in their free time as well. Or they might be tired from their physical job and most of all want to rest in the evening.

However, exercise and sports outside of work does have many health benefits. A good basic level of fitness and muscle strength enable a person to do a physical job for longer, with fewer physical complaints. The trick is to find the right balance of physical workload during the day, and varied, relaxing exercise in free time. 

Healthy lifestyle, stronger muscles

Limited fitness, less strength, and little exercise in free time: These are some of the risk factors for less optimal or even ill health - and therefore physical complaints. But these complaints often come to light later on in life, when often, there is no way back.

As such, these employees would very much benefit from an extra portion of healthy, low to medium intensity exercise alongside their job. This will allow them to limit the negative impact of work movements. The result: they are able to carry out their job well and without health damage , and enjoy life without complaints after retirement too.

The corset muscle plays an important role in the prevention of lower back problems. This consists of well-trained stomach and back muscles. Train the corset muscle through regular exercise and muscle strengthening exercises.

Breaking the activity paradox as an employer? Some tips

  1. Allow micro-breaks. The workload for employees with a physical job must not be too high, so that they have time for micro-breaks or to stretch their muscles.
  2. Encourage active movements. Motivate your employees with a bicycle allowance or the opportunity to lease a bicycle.
  3. Offer group activities. Motivate your employees to work on their physical and mental health regularly. You could offer sessions that emphasise the importance of exercise and a healthy diet. Your employees could get together and do exercises to loosen up the back and neck before the start of the working day or during breaks.

Finally, you could offer your employees these simple tips:

  • Set achievable goals: increase your exercise step by step. There is no need for intensive exercise.
  • Pick an exercise buddy: you can motivate each other, and it’s more likely you’ll stick to your workout.
  • Plan exercise into your routine: you’ll be better prepared, and it’s less likely that something else will come up.
  • Be proud of yourself and celebrate your achievements.
  • Do something you like: exercise is not a must, moving is! For example, you could do gardening, household chores, cooking, etc.

The workshop ‘Be active, be healthy’ teaches employees what a healthy exercise pattern is and why sufficient exercise is so important. What’s more, they will also work out a personal exercise plan. Read more about it here.