PhotoIt just makes sense that getting your exercise and staying in shape would have positive benefits for your health. But a new study suggests that it also might help consumers who have a high-stress job.

Researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland, along with colleagues in Sweden, have found that being in good shape helps protect against health problems associated with work-related stress. This is important because work stress can often lead workers to become more sedentary, possibly exacerbating health issues.

“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.

Health and stress

The researchers came to their conclusions after measuring the fitness levels of 200 Swedish employees using a bicycle ergometer test. Participants were nearly split between male (51%) and female (49%), with an average age of 39. Measures for blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol, triglycerides, and glycated hemoglobin were recorded.

Additionally, the researchers asked all participants to provide information on their current stress levels. The findings showed that individuals who were more stressed tended to have higher cardiovascular risks than those who were less stressed. The researchers note that cardiovascular fitness is linked to virtually all health risk factors, and that individuals who are physically fit were less at risk overall.

For participants who were most stressed, the findings showed very different health measures between those who had high, medium, and low fitness levels.

Employees with a low fitness level were shown to have higher LDL cholesterol scores; LDL cholesterol is considered by experts to be “bad” cholesterol that collects in blood vessels and causes blockages and heart attacks. On the other hand, employees with a high level of fitness had better scores on health-related measures, showing that their bodies were less affected by work-related woes.

Treating stress

The researchers believe that their work can have direct implications on how medical professionals treat stress-related disorders. By promoting high activity and exercise, they posit that individuals with excessive levels of stress may avoid cardiovascular problems.

The full study has been published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise

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