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Why exercise when you work a physically demanding job?

When the end of the day rolls around, the last thing a lot of people want to do is head to the gym. With the stress of the day, both physically and mentally, still occupying your mind and body, it can be challenging to shift your attention to working out, especially if you’ve spent the day working a physically demanding job.


Two of the biggest obstacles facing anyone with a physically demanding job are time and energy. If you’re juggling a full day or work, family, and home obligations, squeezing in one more thing might seem out of the question. The good news? Some exercise is better than none.


You don't have to exercise every day to benefit from working out. Even carving out two to three days a week for some type of physical activity outside of work can help boost energy, strengthen muscles, improve mobility, and reduce the chances of you getting injured at work.


That’s right, injury prevention. Just like athletes condition their bodies for the sports they play. An individual working a physically demanding job needs to be conditioned for work.


Where to start?

Start with your core muscles. While on the job, these muscles assist with movements that involve bending, reaching, pulling, pushing, and twisting. They also play a critical role in keeping your lower back free from injury, which is essential in a physically demanding job.

Since this type of work often requires standing while doing a lot of twisting and lifting heavy loads, a strong midsection is necessary. Training your core does not require any equipment, so you can do it anywhere and anytime. Core exercises can help keep the muscles around the spine strong and more resistant to injury.

If time and money permit, participate in a yoga or Pilates class. These workouts can help relieve some of the tightness in the hips and lower back that often happens because of carrying heavy loads.


Don’t forget your heart.

Constant wear and tear on your body can cause aches and pains that interfere with your performance on the job. It also influences your decision to exercise at the end of a grueling day. That’s why finding the time and energy to balance fitness with a job that is tiring and demanding requires a realistic approach to working out.

Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise such as running, swimming, cycling, or using cardio equipment at the gym can supplement your fitness routine, but it doesn’t need to be the focus. If you’re covering a lot of ground at work, such as getting plenty of steps in, performing hours of cardio is not a good use of your time.

Focus on getting in a few days of aerobic exercise in the form of sports or other physical activity that gets your heart pumping. This helps to reduce blood pressure, improve blood sugar, reduce LDL cholesterol, improve sleep, and reduce feelings of stress.


Strengthen your muscles!

Strengthening the major muscle groups and smaller stabilizing muscles that help prevent injury should be your MAIN FOCUS when it comes to exercise. Manual labor jobs come with a certain amount of repetitive stress, and exercise often gets overlooked as a solution. Many of these jobs cause a significant amount of stress on the muscles, bones, and joints, especially in the shoulders and knees.

Strength or resistance exercise can counteract the stresses of a physically demanding job. The stronger and healthier your body is, the longer you will be able to complete tasks that require repetitive stress. The best way to prepare for that stress is to make your body stronger.

Perform full-body workouts that focus on major muscles groups such as the legs, glutes, back, chest, shoulders, arms, and core, two to three days a week on non-consecutive days. Depending on the physical requirements of your job, you may want to focus on moderate weight and repetitions for repetitive movement jobs and higher weight with lower repetitions for those heavy lifting jobs.


Finally make time to stretch.

To round out your overall fitness routine, don't forget stretching. There are two types of stretching: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching is typically done at the beginning of a workout, since it helps increase blood flow, loosens up muscles and joints, and warms up the body for physical activity. Static stretching is often part of a cool-down at the end of your workout since your body is warm.

In addition to stretching before and after a workout, carving out 15 minutes, before and after work, for low-back, shoulder, hip and knee stretches can make a significant difference in your daily activity by reducing joint pain associated with physical demands of your job.


To balance exercise with a physically demanding job, find out what works best for you. You don’t have to do it all, just make your best effort. Taking care of your body to perform both in and out of work will not only reduce the chances of injuries and make you more physically fit, but exercise is also a habit worth getting addicted too.

About the author

Philip Stotter, MS, CEP

Philip Stotter, MS, CEP has over 25+ years of experience in the medical, health, wellness, and professional sports industries. Clinician turned business developer, Philip is a sought-after industry speaker and professional consultant. His ground-breaking work in injury prevention, paired with the science of human movement, has put him at the forefront of product development with a multidisciplinary approach that integrates physiology, biomechanics, cutting-edge technologies, and data-driven research.