Promoting health and physical capacity during productive work: The goldilocks principle

Andreas Holtermann*, Svend Erik Mathiassen, Leon Straker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

Objectives In spite of preventive efforts, organizations and employees face several challenges related to working life and occupational health, such as a substantial prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders, social inequality in health and physical capacity, multi-morbidity, an obesity epidemic and an aging workforce. We argue that a new approach to occupational ergonomics and health is required, going beyond prevention of harm caused by work. We propose the "Goldilocks Principle" for how productive work can be designed to promote health and physical capacity. Methods Physical (in)activity profoundly influences health and physical capacity, with effects depending on the extent and temporal structure of the (in)activity. Like the porridge, chair and bed that needed to be "just right" for Goldilocks in the The Three Bears fairytale, physical activity during productive work needs to be "just right" for promoting rather than deteriorating health and capacity. In many jobs, physical activity is, however, either too much/high/frequent or too little/low/infrequent to give positive biomechanical and cardiometabolic stimuli. Results This paper presents the rationale, concept, development, application and prospects of the Goldilocks Principle for how productive work can be designed to promote health and physical capacity. Conclusions We envision a great potential to promote health and physical capacity by designing productive work according to the Goldilocks Principle, thus leading to benefits with respect to the current challenges related to working life and occupational health for society, organizations and employees.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health
Volume45
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)90-97
ISSN0355-3140
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1. Jan 2019

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Health
Occupational Health
health
physical activity
working life
Organizations
Human Engineering
physical method
obesity
employee
Personnel
bear
morbidity
Ergonomics
social inequality
ergonomics
stimulus
Aging of materials
occupational health

Keywords

  • Ergonomics
  • Health promotion
  • Occupational health
  • Physical activity
  • Physical work demand
  • Sedentary behavior
  • Workplace health promotion

Cite this

Holtermann, Andreas ; Mathiassen, Svend Erik ; Straker, Leon. / Promoting health and physical capacity during productive work : The goldilocks principle. In: Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health. 2019 ; Vol. 45, No. 1. pp. 90-97.
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Promoting health and physical capacity during productive work : The goldilocks principle. / Holtermann, Andreas; Mathiassen, Svend Erik; Straker, Leon.

In: Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, Vol. 45, No. 1, 01.01.2019, p. 90-97.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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T1 - Promoting health and physical capacity during productive work

T2 - The goldilocks principle

AU - Holtermann, Andreas

AU - Mathiassen, Svend Erik

AU - Straker, Leon

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N2 - Objectives In spite of preventive efforts, organizations and employees face several challenges related to working life and occupational health, such as a substantial prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders, social inequality in health and physical capacity, multi-morbidity, an obesity epidemic and an aging workforce. We argue that a new approach to occupational ergonomics and health is required, going beyond prevention of harm caused by work. We propose the "Goldilocks Principle" for how productive work can be designed to promote health and physical capacity. Methods Physical (in)activity profoundly influences health and physical capacity, with effects depending on the extent and temporal structure of the (in)activity. Like the porridge, chair and bed that needed to be "just right" for Goldilocks in the The Three Bears fairytale, physical activity during productive work needs to be "just right" for promoting rather than deteriorating health and capacity. In many jobs, physical activity is, however, either too much/high/frequent or too little/low/infrequent to give positive biomechanical and cardiometabolic stimuli. Results This paper presents the rationale, concept, development, application and prospects of the Goldilocks Principle for how productive work can be designed to promote health and physical capacity. Conclusions We envision a great potential to promote health and physical capacity by designing productive work according to the Goldilocks Principle, thus leading to benefits with respect to the current challenges related to working life and occupational health for society, organizations and employees.

AB - Objectives In spite of preventive efforts, organizations and employees face several challenges related to working life and occupational health, such as a substantial prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders, social inequality in health and physical capacity, multi-morbidity, an obesity epidemic and an aging workforce. We argue that a new approach to occupational ergonomics and health is required, going beyond prevention of harm caused by work. We propose the "Goldilocks Principle" for how productive work can be designed to promote health and physical capacity. Methods Physical (in)activity profoundly influences health and physical capacity, with effects depending on the extent and temporal structure of the (in)activity. Like the porridge, chair and bed that needed to be "just right" for Goldilocks in the The Three Bears fairytale, physical activity during productive work needs to be "just right" for promoting rather than deteriorating health and capacity. In many jobs, physical activity is, however, either too much/high/frequent or too little/low/infrequent to give positive biomechanical and cardiometabolic stimuli. Results This paper presents the rationale, concept, development, application and prospects of the Goldilocks Principle for how productive work can be designed to promote health and physical capacity. Conclusions We envision a great potential to promote health and physical capacity by designing productive work according to the Goldilocks Principle, thus leading to benefits with respect to the current challenges related to working life and occupational health for society, organizations and employees.

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