Exercise may help workers feel less stressed, but it could also make them work less, a new study suggests.
The researchers noted this indicates that stress management is essential to improving productivity in the workplace.
In conducting the study, published an issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers examined 2,823 workers in Minnesota to see how physical activity affected their stress level as well as their productivity. They found workers with higher body-mass index (BMI) worked less, regardless of any other factors.
Even after adjusting for BMI, the study revealed that workers with a high level of stress who also had a high level of physical activity were significantly less productive. On the other hand, physical activity did not result in as big a drop in productivity among workers with little stress.
"This may indicate that some individuals essentially cope with high levels of stress by exercising more and working less," the study authors wrote in a journal news release. They concluded that stress management is "at least as economically relevant" to encouraging good health and productivity among workers as other lifestyle factors.
Although the findings could help improve worksite wellness programs designed to improve employee health, the researchers noted more studies are needed to explore the best ways to reduce stress in the workplace.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on stress in the workplace.
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