September 10th, 2010
07:07 PM ET

Work long hours? Stay in shape to lower risk of heart disease

Working long hours increases the risk of dying from heart disease but staying in shape can eliminate that risk, according to a new study.

"Those working more than 45 hours a week had two times the risk of cardiovascular mortality compared to those working normal hours, less than 40 hours per week," said lead study author Andreas Holtermann.  If you are in good shape and you work out, than working long hours does not change your risk level, he said.

5,000 white men, aged between 40 and 59 and tracked for more than 30 years, were the focus of the study,  published in Heart.

Working additional hours stresses the cardiovascular system and boosts the nervous system causing your heart rate and blood pressure to elevate, according to the study.  But if you're fit, your body recovers faster and the physiological stress from working those long days is reduced, the research showed.

So if you are working long hours, your risk of dying of  heart disease can come down to  whether you are getting enough exercise.

Only 3 to 5 percent of adults work out 30 minutes a day, five days a week according to The National Institutes of Health.  Exercising two to three times a week, 30 minutes each time will improve your physical fitness, said Holtermann. Maintain a heart rate between 50 and 85 percent of maximum during those workouts according to The American Heart Association.

soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Kate

    Makes sense, if you're working 50 hours a week it's going to be hard to time find to exercise. If you do fin time you'll be beat from working all day. Not to mention the stress so you're probably not eating as healthy. More work places need workplace wellness programs to help these people out


    September 10, 2010 at 19:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • shawn

      to kate i work 3 jobs. i workout at the gym 4 days a week. sleep 7 hrs. maintain great diet. there are to many excuses that people make up about workingout. go to livestrong.com

      September 13, 2010 at 05:14 | Report abuse |
    • RLJ

      Shawn, it doesn't matter how many jobs you work – it's the hours you work. Some people work 13 hrs at one job. If you sleep 7 hrs then that leaves you 4 hrs to work out, cook, clean, spend quality time with family, help kids with homework etc.

      September 13, 2010 at 08:08 | Report abuse |
    • Luna

      Working long hours increases the risk of dying, developing carpal tunnel, tendonitis, neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, eye strain, stress, stomach problems. Working the long hours is mostly a choice for me because I choose to be a workaholic because the hard work has brought me many rewards but I'm killing myself and what good are the rewards if I can't enjoy them. Yep, people don't be like me. Create a work/life balance and take care of yourself.

      October 6, 2010 at 20:22 | Report abuse |
  2. cincydiane

    Most people who work long hours wish they could exercise and/or try to. But when you are trying to make ends meet, you HAVE to work those long hours. I'd much rather work shorter hours and exercise, but decreasing my hours is not an option.

    September 10, 2010 at 21:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • thor

      Even when I work 14 hours there is still time left to eat and workout. Also lunch can be eaten in 4 minutes leaving 20 to 50 minutes of time in which to exercise. It's about how bad do you want to stay fit. A 10 hour day leaves more than enough time. Kids are no excuse either as they usually hit the sack hours before the parents. Get fit or die young, your heart don't care if working all day makes you too tired to take care of yourself. And usually anyone working 12 or more hours typically has at least some exertion during the day, and office drones never work 12 hours 6 days a week. If you get soft and fat it's you, not circumstance.

      September 11, 2010 at 18:46 | Report abuse |
    • Leigh

      Wow thor-You are quite an idiot! Go pop 2 children out and get them to bed at 7pm-let meknow how that goes!

      September 13, 2010 at 05:37 | Report abuse |
    • Liz

      I would love to call Thor an idiot as well, since I'm a Mom of 3 kids working a good 65 hour in front of a computer who doesn't exercise. Unfortunately, I think he's right. If I have 10 minutes to peruse news and respond to you and thor, I can probably get off my ever-widening bottom and exercise. Thanks for the good kick in the pants, Thor!

      September 14, 2010 at 08:39 | Report abuse |
  3. workingamerican

    I work 40-60 hours a week in the summer as a construction worker, I find this article interesting, I work my a.. off during the day and am stiff and sore at night, and I don't think an extra half hour at the gym would do me any good. Maybe that is why Jesus was a carpenter? Makes you think don't it?

    September 11, 2010 at 01:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • thor

      Half hour of exercise? What are you a 300 pound woman? I've worked in a foundry, lifting heavy weight all day, and being exposed to blinding heat. Then workout after. The reason I'm not beat at the end of the day is because exercise builds your stamina. Exercise isn't like an option to snub your nose at. If you don't do it your back becomes weak, your arteries harden, and you die early. No one has a job that subs for exercise. You could smash a sledgehammer all day, and you still need to exercise. Lazy is what it is. Guys who workout have jobs, and a deep drive to succeed and stay strong and fit. Excuses for working out are like a@#$oles everyone has one.

      September 11, 2010 at 18:53 | Report abuse |
  4. CamarilloSam

    I have worked 60 to 80 hours a week for 22 years as a software developer. (It's nonpstop). I walk 2 1/2 miles each way to and from work, often walking home after midnight. I'm 67 and feel great. I used to just sit even when I wasn't programming. For the last 8 years I have walked.

    September 11, 2010 at 03:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • shawn

      camarillio sam this is why i love to stay fit. hearing of people like you being in great shape longevity

      September 13, 2010 at 05:26 | Report abuse |
  5. Dr Magda Botez

    Dear Doctor Gupta,
    PLease do not give up the fight for Pakistan!
    God help us!

    September 11, 2010 at 07:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Ann

    Adopt a dog! Save a life and the life saved is yours. They bug you for walks/runs everyday. And a good dog companion is conforting for your soul! Our adopted dog does that for us!

    September 11, 2010 at 08:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Dee

    Everyone should make time to exercise. Working long hours is no excuse. Instead of sitting on the couch for an hour at night, exercise for an hour. If you don't have time to go to the gym, buy some exercise equipment for your home. It's really not hard at all – in fact it's easy. But most people lack the discipline. I make it a part of my daily routine, and feel much better for it.

    September 11, 2010 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cec

      I work 3 jobs for a total of AT LEAST 65 hours per week. Some days I work up to 14 hours at all three locations. I can tell you that almost all of my free time is taken up with working, commuting, and getting ready to transition from one job to the next.

      There are many days that I get up at 6am and don't get back home until midninght. Do you suggest that I cut into one of my six hours of sleep work out? I suppose I really lack discipline for wanting a fulll six hours of sleep after 12-14 hours of work. I haven't had a day off in nearly two months. I'd like to know how many people have the dicipline to work the schedule that I work.

      September 11, 2010 at 16:54 | Report abuse |
  8. Mike

    I don't understand this article. "Work long hours? Stay in shape to lower risk of heart disease" WHY? So my employer can wring an extra 10 man-years of labor out of tired body before I die? The only thing a guy working +50 hours/week has to look forward to IS an early death. Does guys in prison look for ways to get an extended sentence? Generally, no, they do not.

    September 11, 2010 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. david

    I wonder how many of the people in the study enjoyed their job as opposed to dreading it. That has a lot to do with stress.

    September 11, 2010 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. O.K.

    It all depends on what you call work. My definition of work is doing something physical. I know sitting at a desk for 40 hours can be very tiring and stressful. I average 105 hours a week, 6am-8pm or beyond at night, 7 days a week. I work these hours not because my employer demands it, but because I choose to. I am a horse trainer and gun instructor, plus I am 68 years old. Do you think all this work is going to shorten my life?

    September 11, 2010 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. einzart

    Working long hours means that we cannot go to the gym everyday. Its like saying if you jump hard enough you can fly.

    September 11, 2010 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. jv

    "If you are in good shape and you work out, than working long hours..."

    I believe it is THEN, not than. Right?

    September 11, 2010 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Leigh

    I work 55 hours a week at the age of 25 and eat super healthy-I don't have time to exercise during the week because i have a 1.5 hour commute one way but wake up every saturday and sunday morning and spend 30 minutes with cardio and 30 minutes doing weights and pilates. I have no kids and live off of lean cuisines and salads-I can't even imagine having a family with my schedule-so Iget why people really don't have time to exercise

    September 11, 2010 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. dgfg

    I spend almost all day sitting in a chair so I make sure to go for a 3 mile run at least three times a week and it keeps me in good shape for the ladies

    September 11, 2010 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Cec

    I work 3 jobs for a total of 65 hours per week. I really wish I had time to work out. Some days I work as much as 14 hours between 3 different locations, so literally all of my time is spent working or getting from one place to another. I used to go to the gym 3 to 4 times a week for an hour and a half. Now, I can feel that I've gotten a lot unhealthier since I started working this much, but I have no choice. Also, because of my schedule, I end up eating fast food at least 4 or 5 times a week. I abosolutely hate that, I used to eat fast food only once or twice a month and I can tell that its killing me. As much as I try to do the 'healthy' fast food options like Jimmy Johns and Subway, those restaurants aren't always along my route between jobs and I get stuck with McDonalds or Taco Bell. I can only hope that this economy turns around, I can find one 'real' job with normal hours and money for healthy food and a gym membership left over.

    September 11, 2010 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Shape Up

    It's also been found that sitting for much of the day also increases the risk of heart disease. To help combat this, and the effects of working long hours, try to work out regularly. This includes getting up and walking around for at least three minutes every hour, minimally.

    Shape Up The Nation
    Corporate Wellness Programs

    September 11, 2010 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Rex

    It's a binary set solution, folks – work out, live longer. Don't work out, die younger (and enjoy less of the life you do have). Your choice, but don't ask me to pay for your heart surgery, diabetes, lung cancer, etc. if you choose not to take care of yourself.

    September 11, 2010 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Captain Obvious

    Work long hours? Why do that when you can ask the government to hand you everything? After all, everyone can live off welfare.

    September 11, 2010 at 21:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Mom

    I work at a company where everyone works long hours, it's the culture. However most people work these hours because they want to. They are either inefficient, or have an addiction to work and control. I have a coworker who at 37 was diagnosed with arthritis, and was told by her doctor that if she really needed to squeeze in the gym into her long days or she would regret it later. She says she doesn't have time to work out. Honestly that boggles my mind. How do you work 14 hours a day, and not have 30 minutes to take care of yourself?? It's just not worth it to me to give up my health for a job.

    September 11, 2010 at 21:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Sam

    I get an hour for lunch, and rather than go out to eat, I pack my own (much cheaper and healthier) and it only takes about 10 minutes to eat. With the remaining time, I go outside and walk around the block. It gets me out of the office for a much needed mental break and helps split up the day.

    September 12, 2010 at 06:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Love to Workout

    @ Leigh...Lean Cuisine is not healthy, not close to super healthy. Read the Boxes 🙂

    September 12, 2010 at 07:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CR

      Lean cuisine... super healthy? No. Healthier than most fast-food? Sure.

      September 13, 2010 at 08:50 | Report abuse |
  22. Leigh

    Wow Love to workout-I love how you claim to know me-for breakfast I eat a greek yogurt and blueberries, for lunch I eat a lean cuisine and an apple and for dinner I eat either a salad or a bowl of cereal-for someone who works my hours I DONT eat a single ounce of fast food and it is healthy for me-as far as the sodium content-I don't consume enough sodium as is so lean cuisines are super healthy so shut up! and stop claiming you know anything about me and my nutritional intake-thanks!

    September 12, 2010 at 07:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Maria Rosado

    I live in Corozal Puerto Rico and this is aan SOS SOS Do you know anybody that can help a 12yr old with brain cancer? I heard what you said today aboutDR. Andrew Parsa. Is ther any hope he can be seen by him. The insurance is not the best but we will give anything and everything is this dr. can see himm he is very weak at this moment. GOD BLESS YOU AND THOSE WHO HELP OTHERs, My phone ia 787-922 7424. He is an only child single mother with a father that does not care whwt happen to him as long as he does noy pay pension.

    September 12, 2010 at 08:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Maria Rosado

    I need DR. parsa s adress please help us find him
    787-922- 7542 I gave you the wrong number sorry this is the one.

    September 12, 2010 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. John Peachey

    I was a former Marine.When I got out I decided that 3:45 am wakeup is good.Been running and gym for 34 years , same routine.Now I can still bench 300, squat 1200 on sled etc. Little weary and doc says cut down on weight. Havent been sick a day since then. I am 61, little overweight (because of beer) yea baby life is good.Still work 10 a day, have a good wife etc...
    So yes exercise no matte what works.

    September 12, 2010 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • shawn

      longevity livestrong.com keep it up

      September 13, 2010 at 05:34 | Report abuse |
  26. Ashad

    Doctors work more than any other profession, many (especially surgeons) work well over 80 hours per week and often for long stretches at a time... so it must not be that bad?

    September 12, 2010 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Dr Bill Toth

    When I was in practice 45 hours was considered a short week. I believe that along with regular daily exercise – daily reading, reflection, and prayer are absolutely essential components of both a successful fitness program and a happy, healthy and successful life. Live With Intention, DrBillToth.com/blog

    September 13, 2010 at 08:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Jose

    Bullcrapt. 53 yr old working a desk job. Exercised, diet and cycled 90 to 125 miles a week. Had a heart attack while ridding bike in Aug 2009. Then, stent got blocked with scar tissue and had bypass. Exercising and diet will NOT GUARANTEE a healty future.

    September 13, 2010 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Pam

    I agree with one that said that time with family, after working long hours, is important. I drive an hour to and from work, leaving early and arriving at 8P or later at night. I have to spend what time I have with my husband before we go to sleep. In other words, I am DONE when I get home. I know that I need to swim for my arthritis and other health problems, but there is no way I can work it in to my day; I just don't ever see it until I am too disabled to work. This is not an excuse; it is called life, which goes for alot of others besides me.

    September 13, 2010 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Tony

    There is no doubt about it, when working 45 plus hours a week it is hard to find time to exercise especially when you add in the additional stress from work. However the good news is there are ways to help the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure without having to make it to the gym after a long day of work. There are little things that can be done to still incorporate exercise into your daily schedule. For example instead of going out for lunch and eating unhealthy fast food, one can simply pack a healthy lunch to bring to work and spend the time it would take traveling to get fast food going for a walk during their lunch break. Additional ways to include exercise into the work schedule can be taking the stairs to the office instead of riding the elevator, parking in a further parking lot and walking to the office, or bringing a change of clothes to work so you can plan on exercising after work before even getting home. By exercising and changing poor eating habits will result in a lower blood pressure, decreased risk of heart disease, a decreased risk of cardiovascular mortality, and lower stress levels.

    September 13, 2010 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. JustLikeIThought

    I work 40 hours a week on a regular job, go home and work another 10 (at least) a week. I don't do regular exercise but I think I get enough in – I take the stairs instead of the elevator, I park in a far corner of the parking lot and walk, when I get home I cook dinner, do the dishes, help with kids' homeowork, get kids in bed, etc. I don't feel that I am unhealthy, I don't eat fast food very much, maybe once a week, most of the time I bring food from home. I have a lazy husband – he also works a full time 40 hour job, works out at a gym for 2 to 3 hours every day, but when he gets home he sits on his a** , he says that he is tired and that I need the exercise so I can do all the house work.

    September 13, 2010 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Jeff

    For those who advocate rushing to eat (eating a healthy meal in 3-10 minutes is rushing), that is actually very unhealthy for your body. It increases your risk of acid reflux, which can (and in my case, did) lead to erosive esophogits, GERD, or far worse if done consistently over time. Those who are already work high-stress jobs (which also contributes to those same problems) actually need to take the time to sit and eat a meal without rushing, or they risk any number of severe health effects.

    September 13, 2010 at 15:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. DJK247

    There is no doubt that exercise lowers the risk of heart disease along with many other health benefits. Many working people are burned out by the time their work day is over due to a lack of energy which can be an effect from a lack of exercise as well. The fact that only 3 to 5 % of adults said they workout 30 minutes a day 5 times a week relates to the increase in obesity in our nation along with poor dieting. I understand many adults have family and other priorities to accomplish when their home, but this article should open most people eyes to organizing their time to make room for exercise. Exercise is also a great form of relieving stress that may come from the work day as well. With many school districts making cuts on physical and health education programs our nations youth may form bad habits in a lack of exercise and knowledge about health. Many hard earned dollars are spent on health care, which can be avoided through quality physical and health education learned at younger ages.

    September 13, 2010 at 21:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Jen McCabe

    The good news you don't have to make big changes all at once.

    Small, healthy 'microchoices' add up over time to better health.

    You can do short, easy 'bursts' of fitness throughout the day. Before you know it, you're doing 15-30 minutes more movement a day through a series of playful 'challenges.'

    Challenge me at imoveyou.com to see how it works...setting up your profile is quick, easy, and free.

    My cofounder and I built the site for ourselves, because our desk jobs started to take a toll. Working behind a computer for 10 hours a day isn't exactly the best lifestyle for building sustainable, healthy habits.

    We also didn't want to go it alone. We wanted a way to incorporate the untapped motivational power of our existing social networks – people we already knew on Twitter and Facebook – to help talk us into getting up and moving.

    We built imoveyou.com as a social health action site, where you can use Twitter, Facebook, or email to invite friends to join you at the gym, take your dog for a walk, or pledge that you'll eat 3 green vegetables today.

    The whole concept is based on the idea that while you may not do something healthy for yourself, you'll do it for a friend or family member who asks. We'd love to hear what you think!

    To your health-
    Jen McCabe
    Founder, Contagion Health

    September 15, 2010 at 15:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Rev Della

    I teach stress management in corporations and I always emphasize the importance of getting enough exercise as a way to handle stress. People often complain that they don't have enough time because they are working so hard. I try to get them to understand that the recommended 30 minutes of activity can be broken up into 10 minute segments. I also encourage them to take a walk at lunch time so they can relieve some of the stress that accumulates at work.

    Some times I am able to get through to them and some times I am not. I won't stop trying to get them to commit to a regular exercise program, because I an convinced that it will help them from having the stress affect their health.


    September 30, 2010 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. blood pressure treatment

    Saved as a favorite, I like your blog!

    March 10, 2012 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. carpinteyrocgl

    Du kan v忙re slags Article forfatter !
    Kort er fortsatt utstrakt

    June 17, 2012 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. do it yourself

    Everything is very open with a precise clarification of the challenges. It was really informative. Your site is very useful. Thank you for sharing!

    August 2, 2012 at 20:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Camie

    What a fantastic idea, I cannot wait around to receive my first letter!


    April 9, 2015 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.