If you work on your feet all day, exercise may be the last thing on your mind after punch-out time. While your office friends are ready to tear down their cubicle walls, shred up the gym and go out dancing all night long, you just want to soak your feet and hit the sack.
Don’t feel bad. Whether you’re a nurse lifting patients or an iron worker climbing up and down steel beams, manual labor is exhausting, but humans were built to be active for long hours not sitting at a desk all day. Studies show that people with limited physical activity have higher percentages of low cardiovascular fitness. (The higher the degree of cardiovascular fitness leads to a better chance of reducing risk factors for coronary artery and cardiovascular diseases and diabetes). Score one for the blue collars!
Just because you’re getting your daily fill of physical activity at work doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. A regular exercise regimen of cardio and strength training will protect your body from the wear and tear of the daily grind. That’s because exercise serves as a prevention tool. The American College of Sports Medicine says that tasks involving prolonged and repetitive pushing and pulling, holding, carrying and lifting can lead to cumulative trauma disorders, such as lower back pain, sprains, strains, carpal tunnel syndrome and neck pain. If workers are fit, productivity increases because there are no job limitations due to inadequate muscle strength, power, endurance or aerobic capacity. Everyone wins!
Ask your employer if they have a workplace wellness program in place. According to a 2003 study by the National Athletic Trainers Association, out of 32 companies surveyed, all that had invested in athletic trainers reported a decline in healthcare costs. Some employers are listening. The New York Times reported that the post office and companies like FedEx hire athletic trainers to develop exercise routines for employees, give them pointers on what to eat and pinpoint ergonomic risks. (For example, athletic trainers with degrees in biomechanics and kinesiology watch delivery people lift boxes to correct their form.)
So how do you work out when you have a physically demanding job? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Take advantage of weekends by doing some moderate weightlifting — kettlebells are great for functional training! — and cardio like running or Spinning if you want to give your feet a break.
- Stretch every day to develop flexibility. This will ward off injuries. After all, you don’t want to pull a muscle.
- Lifting heavy things at work? Do a few extra reps as you go along to sculpt your guns on the job.
- Be conscious of your form. For example, if you are lifting heavy objects, remember to lift with your legs, not with your back. Lift close to your body with feet shoulder-width apart, engage your core muscles and breathe.