The effect of physical activity interventions on occupational stress for health personnel: A systematic review

Int J Nurs Stud. 2019 Sep;97:94-104. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2019.06.002. Epub 2019 Jun 11.


Background: High occupational stress and its implications on health in people who are working in the healthcare sector are well-documented. However, less is known about beneficial effects physical activity interventions might have on occupational stress in healthcare settings.

Objective: This systematic review aims to identify the current evidence on the effect of physical activity interventions on stress outcomes in health personnel.

Design: A systematic review with quality assessment.

Method: PsycINFO, Medline and CINAHL databases were searched in February 2018 using a combination of synonyms of the terms "health personnel", "physical activity" and "occupational stress". The search was repeated in March 2019.

Results: N = 18 experimental studies were included, representing three specified physical activity intervention types (yoga, tai chi and qigong) and different non-specific worksite training programs. Nine studies conducted a multi component intervention with a minor part being physical activity. A total of n = 9 studies investigated the effect of a single component physical activity intervention on stress (seven RCTs, two pre-post intervention studies). Stress measurements used were heterogeneous and only five studies specifically assessed occupational stress. None of the nine studies were considered to be of high quality. All of the included studies scored lower than seven (out of a maximum quality score of 14) with risks of performance and attrition bias. Results suggest a stress reducing effect of yoga and qigong interventions, whereas general workplace physical activity programs and tai chi did not show significant effects.

Conclusions: The present review indicates that yoga and qigong might be an effective way of reducing stress in health personnel and could be incorporated into health promotion in the healthcare sector. Nevertheless, further research with appropriate planning and detailed descriptions of the conducted interventions (duration, frequency and intensity) is needed to determine the effect of physical activity interventions on occupational stress.

Keywords: Exercise; Health personnel; Occupational stress; Physical activity interventions; Yoga.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise*
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis*