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Being Fit Can Reduce Effects of Work-Related Stress

Being Fit Can Reduce Effects of Work-Related Stress

Being in good shape can protect against health problems related to stress at work, a new study finds. Sport scientists in Switzerland and Sweden discovered a high-fitness level appears to protect individuals from the effects of work-related stress.

It is a well-known fact that fitness and well-being go hand in hand. But researchers now find that being in good shape also protects against the health problems that arise when we feel particularly stressed at work. As such, experts recommend to stay physically active, especially during periods of high stress.

Stress can leadĀ to illness-related absences from work — accompanied by impaired mental well-being and an increase in depressive symptoms.

It also raises the likelihood of cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and an unfavorable blood lipid profile. Conversely, a high fitness level is associated with fewer depressive symptoms and fewer cardiovascular risk factors.

As published in the journalĀ Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers discovered a high fitness level offers particularly effective protection for professionals who experience a high degree of stress in the workplace.

Researchers recorded the fitness levels of almost 200 Swedish employees — 51 percent men, mean age 39 years — using a so-called bicycle ergometer test. In addition, they measured various known cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, triglycerides, and glycated hemoglobin.

The participants were then asked to provide information on their current perception of stress.

As expected, the study conducted by the University of Basel, the Institute of Stress Medicine, and Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, illustrates that stressed individuals exhibit higher values of most cardiovascular risk factors.

Furthermore, it was confirmed that cardiovascular fitness is linked to virtually all risk factors, with the risk factors being less high in people who are physically fit.

Researchers demonstrated for the first time that the relationship between the subjective perception of stress and cardiovascular risk factors is moderated by fitness. In other words, among the stressed employees, there were particularly large differences between individuals with a high, medium, and low fitness level.

For example, when stress levels were high, the LDL cholesterol values exceeded the clinically relevant limit in employees with a low fitness level — but not in those with a high fitness level. By contrast, where the exposure to stress was low, far smaller differences were observed between fitness levels.

“Above all, these findings are significant because it is precisely when people are stressed that they tend to engage in physical activity less often,” said Professor Markus Gerber of the University of Basel.

Furthermore, he said the study has direct implications for the therapy and treatment of stress-related disorders. To promote a physically active lifestyle, a high priority should be attached to the systematic measurement of cardiorespiratory fitness and the provision of theoretically sound and evidence-based physical activity counseling.

Source: University of Basel

Being Fit Can Reduce Effects of Work-Related Stress

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Being Fit Can Reduce Effects of Work-Related Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 3 Nov 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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