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April 2023

How Does Your Workforce Measure Up?

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How Does Your Workforce Measure Up?

Over the last several years, I have written several papers on the impact strength has on health.  In fact, more and more research comes out monthly showing the connection between a healthy muscle mass and disease prevention or the management of certain diseases.  IPCS’s own data shows that workers who have a healthy and strong muscle mass have 41% fewer health care claims.

How is this determined?

Read Tom’s full blog in the link below.

How Does Your Workforce Measure Up

IPCS DATA on the Lockdown

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Muscular Strength Loss Greater than Expected, Increasing the Risk of the Worker for MSK’s!

Thomas B. Gilliam, Ph.D.

Summary:

The loss of absolute strength due to the lockdown was about 8 times greater than what was seen each year between 2005-2019.

Body weight increased on average 6-fold compared to the per year increase in weight between 2005-2019.

The percentage of workers in the morbid obese category increased 3 times the annual average over 15-years.

Implication:  The amount of loss of muscle strength due to the lockdown will be difficult to make up which put the worker at greater risk for a musculo-skeletal injury and certain lifestyle diseases.

Read Tom’s full blog in the link below.

IPCS DATA on the Lockdown

Infectious Diseases versus Physical Activity!

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Infectious Diseases versus Physical Activity!

By Thomas B. Gilliam, Ph.D.

Infectious diseases such as COVID-19, flu and pneumonia all have something in common – they attack the immune system.  If you can achieve a healthy immune system, you have a better chance of preventing these diseases and, if you get the disease, to recover from the disease.  It is becoming very obvious that some form of COVID will be around for many years to come – it is just like the flu – a different variant occurs every year.

Dr. Robert Sallis published “Exercise is Medicine for COVID-19” in the November 30, 2021 American College of Sports Medicine “Sports Medicine Bulletin”.

Dr. Sallis stated based on his years of research and seeing patients and in his opinion, “the evidence for the benefit of regular physical activity in terms of COVID-19 outcomes shown in his study dramatically contrasts with public health efforts to promote physical activity during the pandemic.  We should be informing the public that short of vaccination, regular physical activity is perhaps the most important thing one can do to reduce their risk for severe COVID-19.  The results of this study define a clear and actionable guideline to reduce the risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes and suggest that physical activity should be prioritized by public health officials and incorporated into routine medical care.  We all know that exercise is medicine, and we can now add COVID-19 to the long list of conditions it should be prescribed to treat!”

In April 2021, Dr. Robert Sallis and associates published a paper¹ in the British Journal of Sports Medicine on the impact physical inactivity had in getting Covid-19.  Dr. Sallis is the founder and first president of Exercise is Medicine through the American College of Sports Medicine in 2007.  He currently is with the Department of Family and Sports Medicine, Kaiser Permanente Center in California.

Dr. Sallis studied and tracked 48,440 Covid patients and found that physical inactivity was the strongest modifiable risk factor associated with COVID compared with obesity, smoking, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Obesity was also a factor but for only those with a Body Mass Index of 40 or more.

The research is clear that physical activity does enhance the immune system so that it becomes more protective against infectious diseases.   I strongly urge all people to follow the appropriate physical guidelines based on your current health status and to participate in the appropriate physical activity each week which also includes strength training.

 

 

 

¹Sallis, R. et.al. Physical Inactivity is Associated with a Higher Risk for Severe Covid-19 Outcomes: A Study in 48,440 Adult Patients.  Br J Sports Med. 2021;0:1-8.

Another Reason Why You Need to Build Strong Muscle Mass!

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Another Reason Why You Need to Build Strong Muscle Mass!

2019 was a good year for new research studies on the impact muscle health has on disease prevention/management.  The research is clear that maintaining a healthy muscle mass as one ages is critical to either preventing disease, delaying the onset of disease or increasing survivability of certain diseases.  In some cases, a healthy muscle mass helps to better manage certain diseases by allowing a lower dose of a prescription drug or no prescription drug at all.

Read Tom’s full blog in the link below.

Another Reason

Another Reason for the Hiring Shortages!

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Another Reason for the Hiring Shortages!

Thomas B. Gilliam, Ph.D.

 

Several excellent research studies were recently published that when read separately does not say much about the contributing factors to the current hiring shortages but when viewed collectively these studies paint a rather gloomy picture on the worker shortages not only today but for many years to come.

The first article tracked for over 50 years the work ethic of Finnish workers in terms of level of work engagement and leisure time physical activity.  (It should be noted that many studies from populations around the world have published similar results.)

  • Bottom line is that individuals who were physically active engaged more in work of all types. Sedentary individuals either worked less or did not work.
  • A secondary finding but extremely important is that the workers who engaged in more physical activity had less stress and fewer psychological issues (mental health).

The second article presented the latest obesity statistics on children.  The prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States is one of the highest in the world said the author Dr. Ogden.  She went on to say that “obesity in early life remains a leading public health challenge because it is linked with long-term poor physical and mental health”.  Obesity is impacting black and Hispanic children more than white and Asian children.  But across all children the increase in obesity from kindergarten through 5th grade was 4.5% comparing 2018 data to 2010.

  • The greatest risk for the obese children is that more of them are entering adulthood (future workers) as obese which increases their risk of lifestyle diseases such as Type II diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancers, anxiety, depression and many more.

The third article studied the impact of cardio-fitness in early adulthood (18-30 years) has on disease prevention later in life.  Cardio-fitness helps to optimize heart health and is an important predictor of certain adverse health outcomes such as premature death, heart attack and heart disease.

  • This study showed that those with poor cardio-fitness in early adulthood had an accelerated loss of cardio-fitness in mid-life putting the individual at greater risk for heart disease.

Okay, what does all of this mean for hiring going forward.  The lack of cardio-fitness, increase in childhood obesity and more sedentary workers lead to fewer individuals who want to work or can work especially doing physically demanding jobs.  The increase in childhood obesity means there will be more sedentary individuals entering the workforce in years to come.  The COVID lockdown did not do any favors to industry either since many people did no physical activity for about 18-months and many of those individuals became sedentary.

There is a solution.  Industry needs to incentivize their workforce to enhance their fitness level not only for the good of the company but for the health and well-being of the worker to include mental health.

Programs like the IPCS Physical Strength Risk Assessment (PSRA™) can track the muscle health of the worker over time.  The PSRA™ can show worker improvements or decline in their muscle health and how that impacts overall health, performance and safety.  Financial incentives can be based on maintaining current levels of muscle health and or improving muscle health on an annual basis.  The objective is to prevent the continued deterioration of the worker’s muscle health.

The research continues to show the decline in the fitness level of the worker which will make it more difficult to hire workers who can safely perform the essential functions of the job.

  • IPCS new hire data shows a 23% decrease in absolute shoulder strength for the industrial worker over the last 15 years.
  • Ironically in many industries, the shoulder injury is becoming the number one musculo-skeletal injury costing even more than low-back injuries.

The question is will industry begin to invest more in both time and money to enhance the health and well-being of their workforce with programs designed to prevent injury and disease.

References:

Kiema-Junes, H. et.al. More Physical Activity, More Work Engagement?  A Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 Study.  JOEM. 2022:64 (7); 541-549.

Ogden, CL. Et.al. Trends in Obesity Disparities During Childhood.  Pediatrics. 2022:150(2);e2022056547.

Cunningham, SAA. Et.al. Changes in the Incidence of Childhood Obesity.  Pediatrics. 2022;150(2);e2021053708.

Gabriel, KP. Et.al. Factors Associated with Age-Related Declines in Cardiorespiratory Fitness from Early Adulthood Through Midlife:CARDIA.  Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2022:54(7);1147-1154.

Muscle Health/Physical Activity/Exercise: Do These Equal a Healthy Well-Being?

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Muscle Health/Physical Activity/Exercise: Do These Equal a Healthy Well-Being?

Thomas B. Gilliam, Ph.D.

Full disclosure before I begin this paper, I have a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology and I have been working in this profession for 50 years.  So, I am biased toward the benefits of physical activity.

I have read a great deal of research regarding lifestyle, disease, and prevention in multiple disciplines related to physical activity.  And as a tenured faculty member at the University of Michigan, I was a principal investigator on a NIH grant to study heart disease risk in first, second and third graders in 1977.

The research in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s overwhelmingly showed the positive impact physical activity had on health – most of the research was on the reduction of blood pressure, obesity and cardiovascular disease and focused on aerobic activities such as walking, biking, swimming and the like.  But at the beginning of the 21st century, more research on muscle was being done to study the impact of a healthy muscle mass on the health and well-being of the individual.  One of the top scientific organizations to lead the way on promoting muscle strengthening was the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

It wasn’t until 2007 that the “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans” included muscle strengthening as a recommendation but it was only for Americans between ages 18-65.  In 2008, the guidelines were modified to include all adults ages 18 and older and added youth 6-17 years.   Also, in 2007, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Medical Association (AMA) co-launched Exercise is Medicine® (EIM) – a United States-based health initiative that has since been coordinated by ACSM.

Many meta-analyses have been published in the last 10-years that show the positive impact muscle health and physical activity have on the well-being of the individual with focus in recent years on mental health, including fewer incidents of suicide.  Severinsen reported that physical activity and exercise training decrease the risk of dementia and appear to play a role in the treatment of the disease.

Recently, the research also showed those who were physically active had fewer incidences of COVID and if in fact they got COVID the incidence of death was less.

Just recently, Dr. Liang-Kung Chen published an editorial in Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics entitled “Skeletal Muscle: A Key Determinant of Healthy Aging”.  Dr. Chen in his editorial provides multiple examples and research to support why muscle is critical to the healthy aging process and its positive impact on the immune system, anti-inflammatory process and chronic diseases such as Type II diabetes.  He concludes by stating, “skeletal muscle emerges as a critical component of healthy aging, yielding significant influence over physical function, metabolic health, cognitive (mental) performance, and overall well-being.  Age-related muscle loss and dysfunction can lead to falls, disability, and a loss of independence in older individuals, as well as increase the risk of metabolic dysfunction and chronic illnesses.”

While the research is clear that physical activity and muscle health are essential elements to healthy aging and overall well-being, our own (IPCS) strength data indicates that Americans are becoming less active and less likely to maintain muscle strength.  Our database of 600,000 strength tests shows the absolute shoulder strength in the workforce in 2022 is 23% weaker than it was 15 years ago and the knee strength is 18% weaker.  As Dr. Chen stated, this loss of strength will have a negative health impact on the American worker as he/she ages.

This down turn in the health of the worker can be reversed – the research shows that at any given time in our lifespan, strengthening exercises will benefit our health and well-being.  How can the industry and the workplace get more creative to put this message into action and reverse this downward trend?

Key References:

Severinsen, MCK, et. al.  Muscle-Organ Crosstalk:  The Emerging Roles of Myokines.  Endocrine Reviews.  2020. 41(4), 0687

Chen, L-K, Skeletal Muscle Health: A Key Determinant of Healthy Aging.  Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics.  2023. 109, 105011