In today’s workforce, people are becoming increasingly susceptible to work-related aches and pains. Whether it’s a labor-intensive job pushing workers to their physical limits, or even a desk job taking a toll on posture and physical stamina, everyone is at risk. Healthcare workers in particular deal with the physical side effects of their everyday job.

“Healthcare workers frequently perform patient handling, which involves known risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders such as awkward postures and high biomechanical loading of the back… The emerging global shortage in the healthcare workforce highlights the importance of sustaining good musculoskeletal health among healthcare workers” (Jakobsen et al. 2015).

There have been plenty of studies proving the effectiveness of regular physical exercise to reduce musculoskeletal pain, but carving time out of each day to go to a gym is not always practical. That leaves either a home-based or work-based exercise program as an option, each with its own setbacks to adherence. Jakobsen and colleagues set out to find the best way to reduce work-related pain outside of a gym, aiming to “investigate the effect of workplace versus home-based physical exercise on musculoskeletal pain in the back and neck/shoulders among healthcare workers.”

How to reduce work-related pain

200 female healthcare workers from 18 departments at three hospitals were included in this study. Each participant was randomly placed in a ten week program of either:

  • Workplace physical exercise performed during working hours
    • Five sessions of 10 minutes per week
    • Up to 5 group-based coaching sessions on motivation for regular physical exercise
      • Included TheraBand elastic tubing exercises
    • Home-based TheraBand exercise performed during leisure time for 5×10 minutes per week

Courtesy of Jakobsen et al. 2015

Both groups received guidance on patient handling and use of lifting aides as an additional support for pain relief and job efficiency.

The study focused on measuring:

  • Pain intensity
  • Back extensor muscle strength
  • Use of analgesics
  • Program adherence

Get the most out of your work day

Jakobsen and colleagues’ study proved that workplace physical exercise beat home-based exercise in every category:

  • Pain intensity improved more in the workplace group.
  • Back muscle strength improved more in the workplace group.
  • Less analgesics were used by the workplace group.
  • The workplace group had a 45% exercise adherence rate, while the home-based group only had 21% adherence.

When it comes to exercise program adherence, Jakobsen (2015) noted, “In general, employee and management motivation, enhanced through a greater understanding of the physiological and social benefits as well as cost efficiency (in terms of ie, reduced sickness absence), may be primary factors determining the adherence to the training performed.”

View the full workout protocol here.

Do you think that exercise has a place in the work day? Comment below and share with a colleague!




Jakobsen et al. 2015. Effect of workplace- versus home-based physical exercise on musculoskeletal pain among healthcare workers: a cluster randomized controlled trial. Scand J Work Environ Health 41(2):153-63

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