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‘Micro-exercise’ during work hours may help prevent long-term sickness absences

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Copenhagen, Denmark — Performing “simple and brief strengthening exercises designed to strengthen the primary muscles used during work” – known as micro-exercise – while on the job may help prevent long-term sickness absences, according to a recent study out of Denmark.

Researchers from the National Research Center for the Working Environment surveyed more than 70,000 employed wage earners between 2012 and 2018. The surveyed workers hadn’t had a long-term sickness absence in the past 12 months. Long-term sickness absence was defined as a registered sickness for at least 30 days in a period of up to two years.

After adjusting for factors such as age, education and sex, the researchers concluded that 12.8% of such absences before follow-up could have potentially been prevented had all respondents used micro-exercise. Additionally, a reduced risk of long-term sickness absence was observed when the respondents engaged in micro-exercise during work hours, but not after hours.

 

In trials of 10-15 minutes of micro-exercise with elastic resistance bands performed three times a week during work hours, the researchers also observed improved psychological and social factors, such as better social climate, feelings of vitality and the ability to work together in teams.

Although long-term sickness absences account for three-quarters of total absence costs – including sickness benefit payments, lost productivity, lost earnings and potential loss of paid employment – they constitute only a third of all lost working days, according to the study.

The researchers indicate that although micro-exercise opportunities during work hours increased among the respondents to 61% in 2018 from 54.3% in 2012, an opportunity for large-scale public health promotion of their value is being missed.

The study was published online Feb. 10 in the journal Nature.

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