Combined exercise training reduced occupational burnout in helping professions

1. 8 weeks of combined exercise training helped to reduce emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, perceived stress and increased personal accomplishment in helping professionals.

2. There was not a significant decrease in measures of burnout in participants randomized to receive no intervention during the study interval.

Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)

Burnout is known to have significant impacts on job performance and quality of life, especially amongst members of helping professions (e.g., physicians, police, educators, nurses). There is currently a paucity of high-quality studies concerning the efficacy of exercise in reducing symptoms of burnout. As a result, it has been hypothesized that a previously validated combined exercise training regimen would be able to reduce burnout symptoms and perceived stress after 8 weeks of intervention.

This double blind randomized controlled study included 42 males aged 30-60 from helping professions suffering from occupational burnout between September and November 2019. Participants were excluded if they did not have a medical certificate attesting to their state of good physical health. Participants were randomly allocated into an intervention (n=21) or waitlist control (n=21). The intervention consisted of a combined circuit of resistance training and agility training for 60 minutes 3 days a week at a local fitness center. The Maslach Burnout Inventory (to measure work related burnout) and Perceived Stress Scale were administered at baseline (week 1) and after the intervention (week 8).

The intervention group showed a significant decrease in emotional exhaustion and perceived stress from pre to post intervention. There were no significant changes for either measure in the control group. The main strengths of this study were the use of a previously validated combined exercise training program as well a sufficient sample size to adequately power the study. One major limitation of the study was its limited generalizability due to the stringent inclusion criteria. Nonetheless, the findings of this study suggest that combined exercise training could constitute an alternative to pharmacotherapy or psychotherapy in treating occupational burnout.

Click to read the study in Journal of Human Sport and Exercise

Image: PD

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