Studies have shown that seated desk work can have negative health and mobility repercussions as we age. A new study suggests that physically demanding jobs can also impact function later in life.

The study included 5,200 public sector employees participating in the Finnish Longitudinal Study on Municipal Employees. The primary purpose of the study was to understand the impact of leisure-time physical activity (LPA) and occupational physical activity (OPA) on mobility limitations among older adults.

“Baseline data were collected in 1981, including LPA (average exercise within previous year: inactive [no exercise], moderate [some form of exercise ≤1 time per week], vigorous [brisk exercise ≥1 time per week]) and OPA (usual activities at work within previous year: light [light work sitting, standing, or moving around], moderate [moderate work moving around], vigorous [heavy physical work]),” the authors explained.

Each participant then completed several follow-up questionnaires regarding mobility limitations throughout the 28-year intervention. Subjects who engaged in vigorous OPA in midlife had more limitations in old age than those whose OPA levels were light. But subjects who participated in vigorous LPA in midlife had fewer mobility limitations in old age than those who were inactive in midlife.

“Findings suggest that LPA and OPA in midlife have independent, inverse effects on mobility in old age in terms of a harmful effect
of vigorous OPA and a protective effect of vigorous LPA,” the authors concluded.

The study was published the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2014; doi: 10.1111/ jgs.12793).

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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