“Keeping yourself in shape year-round is important for everyone and vital for workers engaged in physical labor,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “Good physical conditioning can prevent many injuries, especially the sprains and strains that are the most common injuries in our industry.”
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) were responsible for approximately one third of all workplace injuries and illnesses requiring time away from the job in 2010.
“One out of every 100 construction laborers suffers an MSD that leads to missed work,” Borck continues. “Despite pain, others stay on the job but develop chronic conditions that can eventually force early retirement. For contractors, these injuries and missed work days lead to costly delays and raise workers’ compensation rates.”
Cardiovascular exercises, also referred to as aerobic exercises, make the heart and lungs stronger. They increase overall strength, endurance, flexibility and balance, and they are key in reducing MSDs. Walking, running, bicycling and swimming – activities that get large muscle groups moving in rhythmic motions – are examples of cardiovascular exercises.
In addition to minimizing risk for MSDs, cardiovascular exercise assists in disease prevention. It can reduce blood pressure, which helps ward off heart disease. It can also produce weight loss, key in the fight against obesity and diabetes. Physically active people, when compared to those with sedentary lifestyles, are 30 to 40 percent less likely to develop colon cancer. Women who get up and move around reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by 20 to 30 percent. Cardiovascular exercise can also help avert or slow low bone density, a condition that often leads to osteoporosis, which is responsible for more than two million fractures every year in the United States.
Monitor Heart Rate
Monitoring your heart rate is the best way to judge whether you are achieving maximum benefit from your cardio exercises. Heart rate is measured in beats per minute (bpm), and it should be checked by taking your pulse periodically throughout your workout. Place your fingers (not your thumb) on either your wrist or the side of your neck, count the pulse beats for ten seconds and then multiply that number by six. You want to reach your target health rate range which is determined by subtracting your age from 220.
Check with Your Doctor
“Before you embark on your new cardio program,” says Borck, “discuss your plans with your health care provider. Based on your age, whether or not you are overweight or smoke or if you have certain chronic health conditions, adjustments in your workout plan may be made necessary. Once you get the green light, pick a cardio activity that you enjoy. This will help you stick with the program and reach your fitness goals.”
Help from the LHSFNA
Along with the Fund’s Nutrition & Fitness for Laborers training manual, the Becoming Physically Active and Fitness for Laborers brochures are designed to help Laborers improve their dietary and exercise habits. Other related publications include Build a Better Body, the Body Mass Index Card, Back Injury Prevention and the Laborers’ Guide to Preventing Sprains and Strains in Construction. All can be ordered through the LHSFNA’s website by clicking on Publications.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]