Intelligent Physical Exercise Training proves effective in enhancing muscle strength and reducing musculoskeletal pain in a workplace setting: A randomized controlled trial

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Background: Physical exercise training interventions at the workplace may cause health benefits but not all employees may benefit from the same program despite having the same occupational exposure. The present aim was to individually tailor Intelligent Physical Exercise Training (IPET) for office workers based on health checks and to assess the effect on musculoskeletal health (Sjøgaard G et al. BMC Public Health 2014, 14:652).

Methods: Office workers were at each of 6 companies randomized 1:1 to a training group, TG (N=194) or a reference group, REF (N=195). TG received one-hour supervised high intensity IPET every week within working hours for one year. The training program was based on baseline health check measures of muscle strength, musculoskeletal pain (self-reported on a 0-9 numeric box scale), cardiorespiratory fitness and health risk indicators, as well as functional capacity including balance. In total 32 individual training programs were developed but 9 of those covered more than 85 % of the participants’ needs, most of which included neck/shoulder strength training and cardio training. Trial registration was in, number: NCT01366950.

Results: There were no baseline differences between groups with overall mean±SD: shoulder elevation strength (right 494±173 N; left 478±171 N), arm abduction strength (right 250±101 N; left 244±102 N), neck pain (past 3 mth 3.2±1.9; 7 d 2.5±1.9), right shoulder pain (past 3 mth 2.4±1.7; 7 d 2.3±1.7), and left shoulder pain (past 3 mth 1.9±1.5; 7 d 2.0±1.5). An intention-to-treat
analysis showed significant improvements for TG compared with REF in muscle strength with ~ 9 % increases (range: 3 % - 12 %), reduced neck pain past 7 d of 1.4±1.6, right shoulder pain past 3 mth of 0.6±1.4 and 7 d of 1.3±1.4, and left shoulder pain past 7 d of 1.1±1.0. Neck pain and left shoulder pain past 3 mth were found significant in a per protocol analysis among employees in TG with a compliance of ≥70 % compared with REF. Further, the proportion of employees who reduced pain intensity past 7 d with ≥1 was for all body regions ~ 90 % in TG and significant compared with REF (~ 20 %).

Discussion: High intensity IPET during working hours significantly reduced musculoskeletal pain in neck and shoulders as well as increased muscle strength among office workers. Of note is the large proportion of employees in TG who had pain reductions of ≥1, which is considered of clinical
relevance and was attained with different combinations of IPET. When targeting the workplace as a
setting, it is important to not only address the occupational exposure but also to tailor the training to
the diversity of the employees’ capacity and disorders.
Publication date2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Event20th Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science: Sustainable Sport - Clarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live, Malmø, Sweden
Duration: 24 Jun 201527 Jun 2015


Conference20th Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science
LocationClarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live