Background: Imbalance between individual resources and work demands can lead to musculoskeletal disorders and reduced work ability. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of workplace- versus home-based physical exercise on work ability among healthcare workers.
Methods: Two hundred female healthcare workers (Age: 42.0, BMI: 24.1, work ability index [WAI]: 43.1) from 18 departments at three Danish hospitals participated (Copenhagen, Denmark, Aug 2013-Jan 2014). Participants were randomly allocated at the cluster level to 10 weeks of: 1) workplace physical exercise (WORK) performed during working hours for 5x10 min per week and up to 5 group-based coaching sessions on motivation for regular physical exercise, or 2) home-based physical exercise (HOME) performed during leisure time for 5x10 min per week. Both groups received ergonomic counseling on patient handling and use of lifting aides. The main outcome measure was the change from baseline to 10-week follow-up in WAI.
Results: Significant group by time interaction was observed for WAI (p < 0.05). WAI at follow-up was 1.1 (0.3 to 1.8) higher in WORK compared with HOME corresponding to a small effect size (Cohens'd = 0.24). Within-group changes indicated that between-group differences were mainly caused by a reduction in WAI in HOME. Of the seven items of WAI, item 2 (work ability in relation to the demands of the job) and item 5 (sickness absence during the past year) were improved in WORK compared with HOME (P < 0.05).
Conclusions: Performing physical exercise together with colleagues at the workplace prevents deterioration of work ability among female healthcare workers.
Trial registration number: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01921764 . Registered 10 August 2013.