A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that strenuous physical activity isn't good for you.
In fact, men with physically demanding jobs may be at an increased risk of death.
Compared to men who worked jobs requiring little to no physical activity, men who worked physically-demanding jobs have an 18% increased risk of early death.
So what gives? Why is some physical activity good for us, while some aren't?
There seems to be a difference between physical activity performed at work, and physical activity done in leisure time.
These differences are what increases the risk of early death.
Are other factors contributing or is it all physical?
This is an activity you do to perform your job.
Some physically demanding jobs are coal miners, construction workers, and road crews.
Even occupations like bellmen and valets exert physical activity at work.
Any profession that requires consistent physical exertion over an extended period is considered physically demanding.
Running, lifting, pushing, pulling and digging are examples of work requiring physical activity.
Your typical office jobs aren't considered physically strenuous.
Retail and customer service jobs typically aren't physically demanding either.
This is the fun stuff.
These are the activities we do for pure enjoyment.
Running, jogging, weight lifting, swimming, and sports are all leisure time physical activities.
These are all done with the purpose of improving or sustaining or health, or for pure enjoyment.
These are the physical activities that improve our health and longevity.
When doctors say that people need to be physically active, this is what they're talking about.
You need to pick up a hobby like weight lifting or basketball, not apply for manual labor jobs.
First, there's a difference in the activities themselves.
From a mentality standpoint, you've chosen to do leisure activities because you enjoy them.
While you're at work, you have no option but to complete the activity to do your job.
That difference in mentality changes the way we approach them.
Secondly, you have less control over the activities you perform at work.
The activities performed at a job are often repetitive, stressing one or several different body parts over and over again.
You may have to do the same movements for hours on end with little to no breaks in between.
With leisure time activities, however, we have much more control over what we're doing.
With a leisure time activity like swimming, you're in complete control of how long you do it and how you do it.
If you need a break, you can take it whenever it's needed.
If you want to change from a backstroke to a breaststroke, you do it.
At work, that's not always possible.
You often have to wait for company-mandated breaks to be able to take a rest, and there's typically only one or two ways to perform the task.
Bending over and mining coal for hours on end is much worse for us than jumping in a pool to go for a quick swim.
There are also social factors that likely come into play.
Men that work physically strenuous jobs are also more likely to have other habits related to poor health.
Smoking, drinking, and poor diets are also factors in the increased risk of early death.
People that come from poorer backgrounds are much more likely to have poorer health outcomes in general.
Men who work physical jobs are also less likely to participate in leisure time activities.
So it's likely a combination of the two.
It makes sense that poor general health mixed with a physically strenuous job leads to a higher risk of early death.
However, the type of activity you at a physically demanding job alone is still detrimental to your overall health.
Maybe you're reading this, and you're getting a little nervous because you work a physically demanding job.
Breathe easy, because there are steps you can take to lower your risk.
The first step would be to get a new job.
That's not always possible, especially in the short term, so we'll move on.
You need to be active outside of work.
This sounds strange, but it's true. If you're active in your free time, your body will more than likely respond better to the activities you perform at work.
Being in shape outside of work makes you better suited to handle the physical stress of your job.
You also need to nourish your body with proper nutrition.
Working a long day at the job and then topping it off with fast food won't do you any favors.
Drink plenty of water. More than you think you'd need. Snack on fruits and veggies. Try to avoid processed foods.
Just worry about the basics. You don't need to go on a strict diet, just be mindful of what you eat and how it affects your body.
If you drink or smoke, try to eliminate those habits or at least reduce them.
The advantages of this are obvious.
It turns out that not all activity is created equal.
Some activities will give us longevity.
Some activities could shave years off of our lives.
If you have a job that takes a lot out of you physically, you might need to rethink your career.
If you're interested in learning more about health and longevity, check out the links below.