Since childhood, we've often been told that physical activity is of the utmost importance when it comes to good health. And to some extent that is true. As long as you exercise regularly, your health should be in pristine condition. But a new study has now found that although physical activity is thought to protect against cardiovascular diseases, there are also significant variations in its protective effects. The study claims that factors such as lifting heavy loads at work, regularly playing a sport or simply going for a walk may have different effects on people's healths.
It's no secret that cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of premature death across the world. And one of the surest ways to prevent the onset of such diseases is thought to be with physical activity. It is said to have multiple health benefits and is also said to keep heart ailments away. But since physical activity, in general, is a broad concept, a group of people decided to compare the effects of different physical activities on the health of people.
"Our idea was to look at whether all types of physical activity are beneficial, or whether under some circumstances physical activity can be harmful. We wanted in particular to explore the consequences of physical activity at work, especially strenuous physical activity such as routinely carrying heavy loads, which could have a negative impact," explained team leader Jean-Philippe Empana.
For the study, the researchers decided to collect data that had been monitored for over ten years from over 10,000 volunteers all aged between 50-75 years. These participants were asked to fill out questionnaires about the frequency, intensity and duration over which they carried out their physical activities in three different contexts - physical activity at work (carrying heavy loads), physical activity through sport and physical activity at leisure time (gardening).
The researchers then used cutting edge technologies to get images of the participants' arteries so as to help decipher which type of physical activity helped and which didn't. It was found that people who opted for high-intensity activities like playing a sport showed better heart health as compared to people who carried heavy loads at work. In fact, heart health for such people seemed to be declining.
"Our findings represent a valuable avenue of research for improving our understanding of the associations between physical activity and cardiovascular disease. They do not suggest that movement at work is harmful for health, instead they suggest that chronic, strenuous activity (such as lifting heavy loads) at work may be," highlights Empana.
"This study has major public health implications for physical activity at work. We now want to expand our analysis to further explore the interactions between physical activity and the health status of people in the workplace," concludes Empana.