The effects and constancy of a worksite physical exercise intervention were examined in relation to the physical fitness, perceived health status, and work ability of female service workers during periods of 1 and 5 years.
The subjects comprised female home care workers divided into an intervention group (n = 50, mean age 41.8 (SD 10.4) years) and a control group (n = 37, mean age 43.3 (SD 8.8) years). The intervention group participated in 9 months of supervised exercise intervention twice a week during the workday. Functional capacity, perceived health, and work ability were assessed at the beginning of the study and after a 1- and a 5-year period of follow-up.
In the 1-year follow-up measurements, body fat had decreased (4%) and dynamic muscle performance and maximal oxygen consumption in relation to body mass (30-38 and 7%, respectively) had increased in the intervention group. The differences in outcome variables between the intervention and the control groups were significant (from P = 0.014 to P < 0.001). These positive effects of worksite exercise were observed despite the age of the subjects, and the changes were consistent during a 5-year period. In the control group the decline of the work ability index (L smean) was about three times faster than in the intervention group during the 5-year period.
Physical exercise executed in work units can be used to improve the physical capacity of female home care aides and prevent the early decline of their work ability. In jobs that are physically demanding, such as home care work, early prevention must start before the age-related deterioration of health and physical capacity.