Body Builders and Builder Bodies: Fitness in Construction
02nd June 2017
We all know that construction work can be tough and physically demanding. You don't need to suffer a fall or an equipment accident to get yourself injured on the job. Repetitive actions can lead to serious problems over the long term, and even vibrations from hand tools can lead to long-term injuries if you don't protect yourself.
Construction firm Skanska have been taking their workers' fitness pretty seriously. Their “Injury Free Environment” initiative saw them putting people through their paces with an early-morning stretch session. They took advice from a professional trainer and put together a 10-minute routine designed to get everyone warmed up and ready to take on the stresses of the job. The results were pretty impressive, with reductions in soft tissue injuries and a more energetic workforce.
Take a look at what they have to do:
The thing to remember is that just because something is hard, that doesn't mean it's good for you. When you see people hefting lumps of iron around at the gym, it might not seem much different from swinging hammers and shifting bricks on-site. It's all exercise, right?
Well, not exactly. Gym work with weights is generally based on the idea of “progressive overload”. Simply put, you do more as you get better at it. Depending on the type of exercise, that could mean lifting more weight, doing more repetitions or spending more time doing it. Construction work, on the other hand doesn't tend to progress much. You don't suddenly find your old hammer's too light for you and graduate to a heavier one, for instance. Your body tends to get used to the demands you're placing on it, and if those demands don't increase, you stop improving. Worse still, as we said before, overly repetitive exercise itself can cause injuries.
Then, of course, you've got to think about your heart. If you look at construction work purely in terms of calories burned, it comes out pretty well. Even fairly low-sweat jobs can be as good as or better than a moderate-intensity workout. You've also got to look at the other side of that equation, though. Burning a tonne of calories doesn't count for much if you're eating more than you need. On top of that, having your heart in poor shape can be pretty dangerous when your job's particularly physical. Remember – it's not just your own health you've got to keep in mind. If you get weak, dizzy or worse at the wrong time, you could hurt others just as easily as yourself.
The good news is you don't have to be Chinese brick-carrier-turned-international-heartthrob Shi Shinwei to stay fit and safe at work.
In fact, you may already be doing a lot of what you need to already. Even without hitting the gym three times a week or jogging miles every morning before work, you can still improve your fitness. Playing in local football teams, swimming, cycling to the shops or even taking the kids to the park can all have a positive impact on your health. The trick is to plug the gaps in the kinds of exercise you're getting at work. Having an active job means you've got a foot on the fitness ladder already. With the right mindset and workout plan, you can stay safer at work and maybe even live a little longer too.
Of course, if you do happen to become an international heartthrob along the way, that's not exactly a disaster either, is it?
For those occasions when you are driving or using public transport, though, remember to call RIFT so we can claim your tax refund for that travel. You'll need those huge muscles to support the weight of your wallet!