PT Classroom - “Ergo Breaks” for the Industrial/Office/Health Care Athlete ׀ by Ronald W. Porter, PT, CEAS III


Ronald W. Porter is a recognized expert in the field of Occupational Safety and Health, and Ergonomics. In the past 30 years, since becoming Director of the The Back School, he has instructed over 1000 workshops and seminars on Ergonomics Awareness and Musculoskeletal Disorder Prevention to physical and occupational therapists, medical doctors, occupational health nurses, and industrial health and safety professionals. Ron has worked with over 200 industries, including Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, E.I. Du Pont, DS Waters, Shell Oil, International Paper, Cingular Wireless and the United States Navy, on the development and implementation of innovative ergonomics programs for both individual plant sites and entire corporations. He is often an featured presenter at national safety and health association conferences including the 2007 - 2010 American Society of Safety Engineers Professional Development Conferences, the 1995 - 2005 American Occupational Health Conferences, SEAK Annual National Workers' Compensation and Occupational Medicine Conferences in 2005-2007 and a March 2010 national webinar on the Aging Workforce for the ASSE Virtual Classroom. His Bachelor of Science degree is from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and his Graduate Degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. He is a member of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, American Physical Therapy Association, American Society of Safety Engineers and the American Industrial Hygiene Association.


“Ergo Breaks” for the Industrial/Office/Health Care Athlete

For those of us who specialize in health, wellness, exercise and fitness we have the long held opinion/belief that workplace fitness/exercise programs assist workers in being less prone to work-related injury, require less medical care, use less sick time and are more productive at work and home. Unfortunately, the literature specific to worksite exercise programs that are implemented to control for work related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) do not always show successful results.

In a research literature review by Raymond W. McGorry and Theodore K Courtney, “Worksite Exercise Programs,” in Professional Safety, April 2006, they concluded that the lack of sufficient evidence for the success of worksite exercise programs might be due to insufficient focused, peer-reviewed research in this area.

The most positive support for worksite fitness/stretching/exercise continues to be in those studies in which exercise was included as part of a more comprehensive ergonomics program. The approach to controlling WMSDs that includes engineering and administrative controls in addition to onsite exercise programs continue to show the greatest promise of a positive return.

That being said it is this author’s opinion that “Ergo Breaks” will promote a less static more dynamic work place. In that type of work environment, the worker receives more blood flow to all tissues of the body, including the brain.

Today’s work environment includes many jobs where the body is held in static postures for long periods of time. As we have learned our body is designed to move. It will maintain a better level of fitness when work allows for dynamic instead of static activities. These prolonged and often awkward postures decrease blood flow and nutrition to all tissues of the body. Add to this the fatigue caused by repetition and the risk of occasionally being called upon to lift, carry, push or pull heavy, awkward objects and all employees may be sitting on a potential injury powder keg.

It is widely held in the athletic and physical rehabilitation community that poor physical conditioning increases the risk of injury and slows or prevents sufficient recovery when injury does occur. Exercise/physical fitness has become recognized as a successful treatment for stress related physical and emotional illnesses. Exercise releases endorphins that have been shown to produce a feeling of increased life satisfaction. Worker satisfaction has long been shown to have impact on work related injuries, as we have seen since the article, “A Prospective Study of Work Perceptions and Psychosocial Factors Affecting the Report of Back Pain,” by Stanley J. Bigos, MD in Spine, Volume 16, # 1, January, 1991. Therefore within the context of both physical and mental health and fitness, worksite exercise can be a win-win for employee and management.

Whether it is short 30-second micro-breaks at the computer or more extensive warm-up and stretching in the factory or medical facility prior to work duties, employees will be more physically and mentally conditioned to perform their job duties successfully..

Contact your local health care professional today to begin enjoying the benefits of “Ergo Breaks” and keep your Industrial, Office and Health Care Athlete in elite condition.

Last revised: January 12, 2012
by Ronald Porter, PT, CEAS III

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