Physical demands in working life and individual physical capacity

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2003 Aug;89(6):536-47. doi: 10.1007/s00421-003-0832-4. Epub 2003 May 1.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the prevalence of the excess of metabolic level (metabolic demands in work exceeding one-third of the individual's aerobic capacity) of working men and women today and to describe the population whose metabolic level is exceeded. A second aim was to explore how externally assessed metabolic demands match with the physical function and capacity of working men and women in jobs with the lowest and the highest demands. The aerobic power of each individual (94 men and 94 women) was estimated from heart rate and workload in sub-maximal tests from dynamic legwork on a cycle ergometer. Physical activity was assessed using a task-oriented interview technique. Physical function was measured by tests of muscle endurance in arms, abdomen and legs, handgrip pressure, balance and coordination. The calculation of individual metabolic demands during a "typical working day" showed that 27% of the men and 22% of the women exceeded their metabolic level. The results indicate that the physical fitness is low or somewhat low for two-thirds of the 94 men and for more than one-half of the 94 women. Women in the group with the highest job demands had significantly lower muscle endurance in the abdomen and legs and worse coordination than women in the group with the lowest job demands. Metabolic demands in working life today remain high. This is reflected in a mismatch between individual physical capacity and the physical demands of work for 25% of the population.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Ergonomics
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / metabolism
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution