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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2015

Physical exercise at the workplace prevents deterioration of work ability among healthcare workers: cluster randomized controlled trial

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
Markus D. Jakobsen, Emil Sundstrup, Mikkel Brandt, Kenneth Jay, Per Aagaard, Lars L. Andersen
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors of the article declare that they have no conflict of interest what so ever. Further, the research has not received any funding or grant from any commercial source.

Authors’ contribution

MDJ and LLA designed and led the study and MDJ, ES, MB and KJ collected the data. MDJ and LLA analyzed the data and all authors were involved in the data interpretation. MDJ drafted the manuscript and all co-authors revised it critically for important intellectual content. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.



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.


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.


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).


Performing physical exercise together with colleagues at the workplace prevents deterioration of work ability among female healthcare workers.

Trial registration number NCT01921764. Registered 10 August 2013.
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