Cleaning hotel rooms is a relatively physically demanding job involving standing for long hours, walking from room to room, going up and down stairs, lifting and pushing mops and vacuum cleaners, changing bed sheet, etc.
This study recruited 84 female hotel cleaners who were not involved in any routine physical activities or exercises outside of their work.
All the ladies involved received a full physical exam prior to the study. They were then randomly allocated into a control group or a short one time education session in English and Spanish.
The education session explained the health benefits of physical activity and exercise and reassured the ladies that the physical activities involved in their work was as beneficial as exercising. They were also informed that just their daily work involved more activity than the surgeon general recommendations for staying healthy. In addition, large information posters were tacked to the bulletin boards in their lounge reminding them of the benefits of their physical activity at work.
Meanwhile, the ladies in the control group were not given this information.
After 4 weeks, although the actual behaviour of the hotel workers did not appear to change, the ones in the education group had perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before and reported of having more energy after work. However, most interestingly, those in the education group had significant decreases in their weight (Mean: 2lbs), blood pressure (Mean: 10 mmHg), body fat and BMI while no changes were noted in the individuals in the control group.
The authors of this paper conclude that
“… exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect.”
Clinical Relevance: Sometimes our patients tell us, “I don’t need to exercise cause my job is physically demanding already”. They may in fact be right or wrong. The biggest factor is if they perceive their work as being either healthy or harmful for them.
If they have a physically demanding job that they actually enjoy and view as being beneficial to their health, then they are correct.
On the other hand if they have a high stress job and believe that their job is physically damaging them, then they are incorrect and they should participate in physical activities outside their work!
Reference: Crum AJ1, Langer EJ. Mind-set matters: exercise and the placebo effect. Psychol Sci. 2007 Feb;18(2):165-71.