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Even manual workers need exercise

Published:Wednesday | April 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM
The key to the exercise is to get low (imagine you're aiming for a chair) and use only your leg strength to propel your body back up. - Daviot Kelly/Staff Reporter

It is difficult for some of us to exercise after a day of manual work. Yet, exercise is one of the best ways to overcome the stress and fatigue of a hard day's work. After exercising, we will feel energised to take on other tasks, enjoy a good night's sleep and wake up feeling rested and refreshed, ready for another day on the job.

Unfortunately, when manual work is done as a livelihood, it is not performed using the principles that guide an exercise session and so we do not enjoy the same benefits. Much of the stress experienced during regular work is negative. However, exercise provides us with an outlet for negative stress so we are able to realise positive responses in body function and development.

Manual work results in our body releasing stress hormones that depress some of our body functions and so we do not feel motivated to continue the task. On the other hand, physical exercise is viewed differently, and so it causes the release of stress hormones that stimulate body functions. Even though exercise is strenuous, it is accomplished with a sense of euphoria.

An exercise programme incorporates fitness factors such as agility, balance, coordination, speed, power and reaction time. Agility is necessary to change our body position swiftly and accurately, especially if we are in danger. Balance helps us maintain control over movement. Coordination integrates all the information provided by our senses so that movements are accurately performed. The speed is very important in determining the success of tasks performed. Power or the rate at which tasks are performed inevitably influences achievement. With a faster reaction time, we are able to initiate responses more quickly.

Other benefits

Regular anaerobic exercise helps to develop large muscles, improving strength and ability to perform strenuous tasks for extended periods. Regular exercise improves our circulatory and respiratory systems so we can adjust and recover from the effects of whole-body exercise and work without any major difficulties. Exercise enhances our endurance in releasing high levels of energy over relatively long periods of time. It helps to improve our body composition by reducing the fat volume and increasing muscle, bone and water composition.

Exercise improves the capacity of our joints to move through the full range of movement — an indication of the benefits gained by our muscles, ligaments and tendons. Muscular endurance is greatly improved when we exercise and are able to apply relatively high levels of force repeatedly or sustain muscular contraction for relative long periods of time. Exercise can improve many of the daily negative experiences even if we do manual work.

Dr Kenneth Gardner is an exercise physiologist at Holiday Hills Research Center; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com.