Content » Vol 48, Issue 6

Original report

Physical exercise, sickness absence and subjective employability: An 8-year longitudinal observational study among musculoskeletal patients

Vera Storm, Juliane Paech, Jochen P. Ziegelmann , Sonia Lippke
Jacobs Center on Lifelong Learning, Jacobs University Bremen, Campus Ring 1, DE-28759 Bremen, Germany. E-mail:
DOI: 10.2340/16501977-2103


Objective: Physical exercise recommendations become particularly effective when embedded into medical rehabilitation. However, little is known about long-term behaviour maintenance and its effect on sickness absence and subjective employability. The current longitudinal observational study investigated self-reported physical exercise, sickness absence and subjective employability over a period of 8 years.
Subjects: A total of 601 (T0) outpatients (mean age 45. 14 years; standard deviation 10. 73 years, age range 18–65 years) with different orthopaedic disorders were recruited during their 3-week medical rehabilitation in Germany. Of these, 61. 7% (n = 371) were female. Follow-ups were carried out at 6 months (T1, n = 495), 12 months (T2, n = 340), 3 years (T3, n = 296) and 8 years (T4, n = 142) after baseline.
Methods: Patient characteristics, exercise status, social-cognitive variables, sickness absence and subjective employability were obtained via self-report questionnaires. SPSS hierarchical regression models were used for data analysis, controlling for baseline measures and sociodemographic variables.
Results: Physical exercise status 6 months after rehabilitation treatment (T1) predicted sickness absence at 12 months (T2). Inactive people were 3. 28 times more likely to be on sick leave at T2. In addition, physical exercise at T1 predicted subjective employability 12 months (T2) and 3 years (T3) later. Those who met the recommendations to be physically active for at least 40 min a week were more likely to feel able to work.
Conclusion: Exercise appears to play an important role in reducing sickness absence and subjective employability and
should be promoted within and after rehabilitation treatment.

Lay Abstract


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