Not all squats are created equal. The one you do to sculpt your legs, stay fit, or warm up for a bit a sport is good for your brain and muscular structure. A squat done lifting a box into the back of a mail truck however, seems to have the opposite effect.
As strange as it seems, evidence of life-span alterations stemming from leisure physical activity, and occupational physical activity indicate that the condition in which physical activity takes place determines its effect on our health.
A common rationale for many people choosing not to exercise is that they’re active enough at work. Indeed, many jobs in society involve being physically active for a large part of the working hours for a large part of the day. Telling a warehouse operator, refuse collector, elderly caregiver, postman, sanitation worker, or construction worker that they aren’t physically active is a good way to ruin a friendship.
Yet, multiple studies from multiple countries show that, despite this physical activity, most manual laborers are not healthy; whether that’s measured in life-expectancy, bone and muscular health, cardiovascular health, or even cancer risk.
In contrast, it’s been known since time immemorial that sport improves health in almost every conceivable way. This phenomenon has been termed the Physical Activity Paradox.
“[Leisure physical activity] often includes dynamic movements at conditioning intensity levels sufficient to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and metabolism and is mostly performed voluntarily over short time periods with enough recovery time,” explores a 2017 medical review in the British Journal of Sports Science.
“In contrast, work often requires static loading, heavy lifting, monotonous and awkward working postures and other non-conditioning OPA performed over long periods with insufficient recovery time”.
It could also be the case that leisure physical activity is normally done with a smile, while work-related activity is not. Psychological well-being is known to associate with lower disease risk, and therefore it could not only be that workers are working in unhealthy manners, but that the energy expenditure at work is preventing them from enjoying leisure sport, reducing that valuable font of endorphin release.
Proven adherence methods, such as exercising with other people, playing recreational sports rather than simply running or lifting weights, or exercising in nature, can all go a long way towards helping those who undergo too much occupational activity to get the benefits of leisure physical activity.