The study “Less is known about the role of physical activity people may get at work versus in their free time. I set out to better understand the separate associations of occupational and leisure-time activity with worker stress, burnout and well-being,” said Wolff. The study surveyed 550 full-time health care employees, including physicians and nurses as well as those who didn’t work directly with patients like coders, billers and analysts.
“Studies show increased worker stress and burnout are associated with poor patient safety. In order to keep our patients safe and provide quality health care delivery, we must first care for our health care workers, physically, mentally and socially,” she said. Tackling burnout in health care is critical to ensuring patient safety, said lead author Marilyn Wolff, an alumna of UGA’s College of Public Health.
Physical activity, said Wolff, is a known coping strategy against burnout, but the type of activity matters. Now, a new study from the University of Georgia suggests that investing in more physical activity programming could mitigate the effects of stress and improve worker mental and emotional health.
“The stress cycle begins with a stressor, then an individual’s physiological response to that stressor, and optimally, a release from the body’s physiological response,” said Gay. Leisure-time activity is known to help a person exit the stress cycle. Physical activity different than leisure activity This suggests that leisure-time physical activity was helping health care workers exit the stress cycle, said co-author Jennifer Gay, a professor of health promotion and behavior in the College of Public Health.
An analysis of the responses showed that employees who experienced higher levels of job-related physical activity reported feeling more stressed and exhausted. Conversely, when employees were able to spend more time doing leisure-time physical activity, their reports of job stress and exhaustion were lower. Respondents were asked about their physical activity on the job and physical activities they did in their free time. Workers also answered questions about their job stress, whether they felt exhausted or disengaged, and questions about their emotional well-being – all markers of burnout.
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