Dose-response association between leisure time physical activity and work ability: Cross-sectional study among 3000 workers

Scand J Public Health. 2015 Dec;43(8):819-24. doi: 10.1177/1403494815600312. Epub 2015 Aug 14.


Introduction: Regular physical activity is important for longevity and health, but knowledge about the optimal dose of physical activity for maintaining good work ability is unknown. This study investigates the association between intensity and duration of physical activity during leisure time and work ability in relation to physical demands of the job.

Methods: From the 2010 round of the Danish Work Environment Cohort Study, currently employed wage earners with physically demanding work (n = 2952) replied to questions about work, lifestyle and health. Excellent (100 points), very good (75 points), good (50 points), fair (25 points) and poor (0 points) work ability in relation to the physical demands of the job was experienced by 18%, 40%, 30%, 10% and 2% of the respondents, respectively.

Results: General linear models that controlled for gender, age, physical and psychosocial work factors, lifestyle and chronic disease showed that the duration of high-intensity physical activity during leisure was positively associated with work ability, in a dose-response fashion (p < 0.001). Those performing ⩾ 5 hours of high-intensity physical activity per week had on average 8 points higher work ability than those not performing such activities. The duration of low-intensity leisure-time physical activity was not associated with work ability (p = 0.5668).

Conclusions: The duration of high-intensity physical activity during leisure time is associated in a dose-response fashion with work ability, in workers with physically demanding jobs.

Keywords: Blue-collar workers; Work Ability Index; intensity level; leisure activities; physical activity; workplace performance.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Denmark
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity* / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Work / physiology*
  • Work Capacity Evaluation*