Any physical activity is healthy activity, right? Not so fast. Where you do it might make a big difference. It could boil down to whether your activity is on or off the job.
Researchers tracked more than 100,000 men and women who completed questionnaires regarding their activity during leisure and work hours, categorizing participants into four activity groups for both leisure and employment activity: low, moderate, high or very high. After an average of 10 years of monitoring, death rates from any cause or a major (fatal or nonfatal) cardiovascular event during that time period were assessed.
Compared to men and women with low leisure activity levels, moderate, high and very high leisure-time activity levels decreased early death significantly - by 26 percent, 41 percent and 40 percent, respectively. However, compared to low job activity levels, high and very high job activity levels actually increased the risk of early death by 13 percent and 27 percent, respectively.
The European Society of Cardiology, which published the findings in its journal, the European Heart Journal, emphasized, "[Leisure] time physical activity and occupational physical activity have opposite, and independent, associations with cardiovascular disease risk and longevity." The society's press release also quoted study author Prof. Andreas Holtermann, who explained why leisure-time vs. on-the-job activity may not be the same:
"A brisk 30-minute walk will benefit your health by raising your heart rate and improving your cardiorespiratory fitness, while work activity often does not sufficiently increase heart rate to improve fitness. In addition, work involving lifting for several hours a day increases blood pressure for many hours, which is linked with heart disease risk, while short bursts of intense physical activity during leisure raises blood pressure only briefly."