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Making Physical Activity Work for You

LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer Michael F. Sabitoni

In a typical workday, a laborer’s body is put to the test. Construction workers have to lift, carry, twist, reach and bend for hours, which can result in fatigue and even injury if you’re not in adequate physical shape. Many people with physically demanding jobs believe they’re already getting enough exercise at work and don’t need to work out in their off hours. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Occupational activity often doesn’t provide the same health benefits as leisure time physical activity.

“The importance of regular exercise for good health is well established,” says LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Trustee Michael F. Sabitoni. “We understand the challenges of getting beneficial exercise when you already work a physically demanding job. LIUNA and the LHSFNA aim to make it easier for members to stay fit, maintain their overall health and reap the benefits of exercise.”

Often the last thing someone wants to do after a long day of manual labor is work out. However, while it might sound counterintuitive, regular exercise can help reduce common aches and pains associated with manual labor. That’s because regular exercise can help you build the physical strength and endurance to work more efficiently and avoid injury.

It can be daunting to balance fitness demands when you already have a strenuous job. The Fund’s new publication, Physical Work & Physical Activity: Make it Work for You, helps workers assess their current activity level at work and determine the type and amount of additional activity that’s best for their needs and goals. The guide provides a comprehensive breakdown of strength training, cardiovascular exercise, stretching and rest as well as realistic guidance on how to incorporate these movements into your lifestyle.

Components of Fitness

Keeping your body in good working condition requires a mix of strength training, cardio, stretching and time for recovery. Below is a brief overview of each of these components. LIUNA District Councils, Local Unions, signatory contractors and other LIUNA affiliates can order Physical Work & Physical Activity: Make it Work for You for an in-depth explanation of each fitness component, why it’s important, how much you should be doing, exercise examples and practical tips on how to balance a fitness routine with work.

  • Cardio: Cardiovascular (or aerobic) exercise refers to any exercise that raises your heart rate. Walking, jogging, cycling and swimming are all examples of cardio. This type of exercise is important for keeping your heart healthy, but it doesn’t need to be the main focus of your fitness routine. For instance, if you walk a lot at work, you might not need to supplement as much cardio as an office worker might.
  • Strength: Strength training (or anaerobic exercise) builds muscle, helps prevent injury and protects bones and joints. Strength training should target all muscle groups, which can be done in separate workouts or together in full-body workouts. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for laborers, as each job might engage different muscle groups. For example, if you’re performing overhead work during the day, your shoulders are already getting a workout and you should then focus on training a different muscle group, such as legs.
  • Stretching: Stretching increases your range of motion, improves flexibility, decreases soreness after exertion and lowers your chance of injury. Performing dynamic, movement-based stretches before a workout increases blood flow and prepares muscles and joints for exercise. Performing static stretches (holding a single position or pose for a period of time) at the end of a workout helps reduce your heart rate and prevent stiffness and pain.
  • Rest and recovery: After any kind of exercise, your body needs time to repair and rebuild tissue. In fact, not leaving adequate recovery time can lead to fatigue, soreness, a weakened immune system and delayed fitness progress. A good rule of thumb is to take at least one day off from physical activity each week, but it’s best to listen to your body.

An exercise regimen is going to look different for everyone. It’s important to find the time to exercise and figure out which exercises work best for you. You’ll reap the benefits such as better sleep, more energy, reduced risk for certain diseases, reduced stress and improved mood. For more information and articles on fitness and living a healthy life, check out our Nutrition and Fitness page.

[Hannah Sabitoni and Emily Smith]

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