It’s fairly common for construction workers to question whether they need to follow an exercise regime, considering the fact that they already do a lot of physical activity in their daily work.

While it’s true that construction work involves a mix of low-intensity and heavier physical activity that might seem like a good workout, research has shown this doesn’t match the numerous health benefits that come from recreational physical activity. In this week’s blog, we’re taking a closer look at this topic.

Construction work versus recreational exercise

The benefits of physical exercise are numerous; it can help with weight control, combat some health conditions, improve mood, provide an energy boost, lead to better sleep, build endurance, promote cardiovascular health, reduce pain and be a fun, social activity to enjoy! So, let’s look at how this compares with the physical activity involved in construction work.

1. Calorie count

Anyone who’s ever tried to lose some weight will probably be familiar with calorie counting – watching the energy they consume as food alongside the energy they burn up throughout their day.

In this respect, although construction work won’t burn as many calories as the most vigorous forms of exercise like running or cycling, it does compare favourably with many exercises you might do as part of a low or moderate-intensity workout. For example, tasks like plumbing, electrical works, tiling or interior painting burn roughly the same number of calories as taking a brisk walk (at a pace of about four miles per hour). Heavier work like roofing and concrete work can burn as many calories per minute as swimming, vigorous weight lifting or working on the stair climber at the gym.

2. Cardiovascular benefit

Physical exercise usually involves moderate to high-intensity activity performed over a fairly short period of time. In choosing to exercise for recreational purposes, we have control over both the intensity and duration of our session. It’s up to us whether we take a 30-minute run, a 45-minute yoga class or spend a couple of hours in the gym. One of the key benefits of most forms of exercise is that it can help to improve cardiovascular function and lower blood pressure.

Because it is usually performed throughout the whole day, work-related physical activity is often not intense enough to bring this kind of cardiovascular benefit. In some cases, the very fact that the activity is carried out by workers over a long period of time can actually reduce any cardiovascular benefit and increase the chances of the worker having high blood pressure.

3. Muscular strength

Although many construction tasks require workers to be strong, this type of work is not actually best for developing muscular strength. This is due to the fact that the labour is frequently quite repetitive, requiring the worker to perform the same activities in the same ways and with the same tools every day. This means there is no extension involved in the physical activity – nobody picks up a trowel, hammer or drill and thinks “I’m comfortable with this weight, let’s now find a heavier one!”

In contrast, many people who exercise recreationally make it their goal to get that extension, advancing beyond a comfort zone by increasing the amount of the weight they lift, adding a kilometre or two onto their run or raising the number of repetitions for a particular gym exercise.

4. Hazards

On site workers have to carry out their activity while navigating all kinds of potentially hazardous conditions – working through extreme weather, at height, using sharp tools and being around toxic substances to name a few. While recreational exercise can also at times lead to accidents or injury, construction work probably comes out worse in the hazard stakes.

Exercise wins

Although construction work can provide some basic fitness benefits, it can also sometimes be damaging to health and it certainly shouldn’t be seen as an excuse to avoid any other form of exercise.

After completing a physically demanding job, it might be hard to get into the right mindset to add exercise into your routine but the benefits to overall health and fitness make this worth it. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic activity five times a week and, if you want to build muscular strength, add some strength training workouts into the mix. If heading to the gym isn’t really your cup of tea, taking a brisk walk is still better than doing nothing!

In order to maintain your physical fitness and continue doing well at work, the bottom line is to not overestimate the benefits of your professional activities and never undervalue the benefits of targeted recreational activity.


Feature image: Freepik