From the Journals

Metabolic and work productivity gains follow telemonitored exercise



An exercise program for employees, using activity trackers and telemonitoring, could help those with metabolic syndrome to reduce their disease risk while also improving productivity and mental health, research suggests.

exercise with smartphone kaspiic/

In the June 13 online edition of Lancet Public Health, Dr. Sven Haufe of the Institute of Sports Medicine at Hannover Medical School in Germany and coauthors report the outcomes of a prospective, parallel-group, assessor-blind study of a telemonitoring-supported exercise intervention in 314 workers at a car factory. Of the participants, 162 did office work, 114 did manual work, and 30 did work that was not classified as falling under the office or manual work categories.

The participants, who had all been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, were randomized to a 6-month exercise program involving personal counseling, use of a telemonitored activity monitor and regular feedback and consultation with an exercise scientist, or to continue their current lifestyle.

The participants were told to aim to complete 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week for 6 months and to maintain a high level of daily activity. They were asked to maintain an individual heart rate range of 65%-75% relative to measured maximum heart rate when performing activities, such as walking, running, cycling, and using an elliptical trainer.

Participants wore their activity monitor, the Forerunner 35 (Garmin, Germany), on the wrist of their nondominant hand throughout the intervention period and were trained on how to use the device. Wearing time and steps were continuously recorded and recording of time, distance, and heart rate while performing cardiovascular exercise like riding a bicycle could be stopped and started by the participant. “Both continuous and self-started activity data were saved and directly forwarded via an interface from the Garmin server to a server at Hanover Medical school.” Participants also downloaded an application on their smartphones called Rebirth Active, which was specially designed for the study. The purposes of this app were to facilitate a close relationship between the participant and that participant’s supervising exercise scientist and to provide general information on the study, individual training goals, recommended heart rates during activities, tips for increasing physical activity, and the supervisor’s contact information.

Nearly half of the participants in the exercise program achieved at least the scheduled activity target of 150 minutes of physical activity per week, while the mean overall was 147 minutes per week. The researchers observed a significant reduction in mean metabolic syndrome z score in the intervention group – from 0.93 before the start of the study to 0.63 at the end of the program (P less than .0001). The control group’s mean z score level of improvement did not reach statistical significance (P = .167). The intervention was also associated with significant improvements in the metabolic syndrome components waist circumference, fasting glucose concentration, systolic blood pressure, and triglycerides, but not in HDL cholesterol levels. Additionally, the exercise group experienced greater reductions in mean body weight and mean percentage of body fat than the control group.

Workers who took part in the exercise program showed significant improvements in their performance on three subscales of the work ability index, including their current work ability, work ability in relation to demands, and mental resources. The control group showed no significant gains in these areas.

The intervention group also achieved gains in the physical and mental component scores of the quality of life questionnaires, which were significantly greater than those of the control group. Both the intervention and control groups had decreases in severity scores for anxiety and depression, but participants in the exercise program showed greater improvements.

“The observation that improvements in exercise capacity and mental health are associated with changes in work ability shows the need to offer similar interventions broadly across the working population,” the authors wrote, “not only to reduce individual risk of disease, but also to possibly ease the health care burden and economic costs arising from metabolic syndrome conditions in an aging population, an issue that should be addressed in further studies.”

The study was supported by Audi BKK health insurance and the German Research Foundation. No conflicts of interest were declared.

SOURCE: Haufe S et al. Lancet Public Health 2019. Jun 13. doi.: 10.1016/2468-2667(19)30075-1.

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