Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2002;28(2):85-93    pdf


Effectiveness of a worksite exercise program with respect to perceived work ability and sick leaves among women with physical work

by Nurminen E, Malmivaara A, Ilmarinen J, Ylöstalo P, Mutanen P, Ahonen G, Aro T

Objectives This multicentered randomized controlled trial evaluated the effect of worksite exercise intervention on perceived work ability and sick leaves.

Methods Women (N=260, mean age 40 years) engaged in physically demanding laundry work were individually randomized into an intervention (N=133) or control (N=127) group. Perceived work ability was assessed with questionnaires at 3, 8, 12, and 15 months. Sick leave information was obtained from the personnel administration. Follow-up attendance was 100% at 3 months but declined gradually to 90% by 15 months. Both the intervention and control subjects received a 30-minute feedback on their physical capacity from a physiotherapist and individual exercise prescription and counseling. The intervention subjects also participated in worksite exercise training guided by a physiotherapist. Sixty-minute sessions (N=26) were held once a week for 8 months. About 50% of the intervention group participated in at least two-thirds of the sessions.

Results According to a dichotomized work ability index, at 12 months, workers with "good" or "excellent" work ability increased more in the intervention group than in the control group (11.0%, 95% CI 0.2-21.9), as did the health-related prognosis of work ability at 8 months (8.1%, 95% CI 0.5-16.3). There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups as regards job satisfaction, work ability index (including series of questions on 7 items), or sick leaves.

Conclusions Physical activity once a week at worksites improves the perceived work ability of women with physically demanding work only slightly. Perceived work ability and sick leaves cannot be affected very positively using single-component exercise intervention. Work ability promotion may need a more multiprofessional approach.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 1997;23 suppl 1:49-57  1997;23 suppl 1:66-71