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Can my Job Be My Exercise?

Updated: Feb 11

If my job is physical, does that count as my daily exercise?

It seems it might not. This is going to depend on your job, but (oh gosh did you see this coming) it has been studied! A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2018;52:149-150) found several reasons why occupational activity doesn’t reward you with the cardiovascular benefits you are more likely to see from ‘leisure’ physical activity.

In summary:

Often the duration and intensity is wrong – it’s likely that work activity actually lasts too long, which can do more harm than good. You get better cardiovascular improvements from sessions that are shorter but at a higher intensity. Typically, leisure activities elevate your heart rate and your blood pressure temporarily, but the extended duration of work activities causes the elevation to persist longer after work as well. Prolonged elevated heart rate or raised blood pressure are both risk factors for heart disease.

Also, work doesn't allow recovery time. Your body’s response during recovery time is when the magic of improvement happens. Working 7+ hours a day week after week would, in sport, be seen as overtraining. Another consequences of this is a sustained increase in the level of inflammation markers in the body. Raised inflammation levels are associated with a lot of chronic health issues, although we can’t assume a causal effect here.

This makes things complicated, because if work is already overtraining you, the answer is not going to be simply adding a leisure activity on top. There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer for this.

The study is available to read if interested, click here.

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