Can Fitness Mitigate Work Stress?
Forty percent of workers find their jobs very stressful, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Twenty-six percent report that they are “often burned out or stressed by their work,” and 29% feel “quite a bit or extremely stressed at work.” Changing careers may not be a possibility; however, a 2016 study suggests fitness can help workers protect themselves against the potentially harmful effects of work-related stress.
Published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2016; 48 , 2075–81), the study aimed to link cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and self-perceived stress to cardiometabolic risk factors and risk for developing cardiovascular diseases (CVD).
Another purpose was to determine the impact of CRF on stress and CVD risk factors.
The study’s researchers analyzed blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, glycated hemoglobin and cardiometabolic risk scores in 197 men and women around 39 years of age. Each study participant underwent CRF tests and provided information on perceived stress levels.
Overall, individuals with higher CRF levels tended to have lower blood pressure, BMI, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides and cardiometabolic risk scores than the less active participants. These scores remained true among people reporting high work-related stress levels. The researchers believe this information can be helpful for all workers and especially those with stressful jobs.
“Better CRF is associated with more favorable levels of several cardiometabolic risk factors, specifically in participants experiencing high stress,” the authors stated. “Higher CRF may provide some protection against the health hazards of high chronic stress by attenuating the stress-related increase in cardiovascular risk factors.”