Physical Activity at Work Linked to Death

Men who have physically strenuous jobs appear to have a greater risk of death from causes other than heart disease and cancer.

Men who have physically strenuous jobs appear to have a greater risk of death from causes other than heart disease and cancer, study findings suggest.

Men who were most physically active at work had almost twice the risk of dying from all causes compared to men with a low physical workload, according to a report in the February issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The risk remained even after the researchers took into account other factors that influence death risk, such as exercise, weight and socioeconomic status.

Overall, among study participants, men with strenuous jobs were more likely to die because of violence or trauma, such as traffic accidents.

There were no deaths due to such cases among men whose jobs were not physically strenuous.

"We speculate that tiredness due to physical work could contribute to the elevated rate of fatal accidents," said Dr. Estela Kristal-Boneh, of the Occupational Health and Rehabilitation Institute in Raanana, Israel, and colleagues.

Their study included 3,500 Israeli men in furniture, electronic, textile, food, tire and iron products manufacturing, who were healthy and over 25 at the beginning of the eight-year study.

Those men with physically demanding jobs tended to be older, less educated, more likely to smoke and drink alcohol, participated less often in sports, and were less likely to have a history of heart disease.

However, the 'blue collar' workers had similar cholesterol levels and body weight compared with their counterparts with less strenuous jobs.

The results indicated that "physical workload independently predicted mortality from other causes" other than heart disease and cancer, the authors concluded.

Past studies found that physical activity in leisure time actually decreases the risk of dying, but results have been mixed regarding on-the-job activity.

"The results of this study clearly negate the general belief that leisure time physical activity and work-related physical activity have similar effects on mortality," said Kristal-Boneh.

The researchers explained that physical activity at work usually involves heavy lifting for short intervals and the use of fewer muscles than in leisure time activity, which often involves aerobic activity.

They concluded that further research is needed to examine the link between physical workload and the specific type of work that is performed.

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