Resistance training and cardio training offer protection against burnout

Employees, freelance workers and entrepreneurs are less likely to succumb to a burnout if they do an intensive training session twice a week. Psychologists at the University of New England in Australia discovered that both strength training and cardio training reduce the chances of having a burnout.

The term burnout was coined in 1975 by the American psychologist Christina Maslach. According to Maslach a burnout has three components.

The most obvious of these is emotional exhaustion, followed by depersonalisation. Depersonalisation is when someone develops a negative and often cynical attitude towards their colleagues, the organisation where they work and the work itself.

The third component in a burnout is that someone’s sense of personal accomplishment decreases.

The Australian researchers wanted to find out whether doing sports would reduce the likelihood of developing a burnout, so they got 29 subjects, aged between 19 and 68, to train three times a week for a period of four weeks. Each session lasted at least half an hour. Twenty subjects did cardio training and 9 did weight training. A control group of 20 people did no sports at all.

At the beginning and end of the four weeks the researchers got the subjects to fill in a questionnaire designed in the 1980s by Maslach to measure burnout. The figures below show that cardio training reduced emotional exhaustion and that resistance training boosted the subjects’ personal accomplishment.

Training had no effect on depersonalisation.

* = Statistically significant effect.


In addition, resistance training and cardio training both increased the feeling of psychological wellbeing and reduced the amount of stress that the subjects reported.


“This research provides a valuable supplement that attests to the significant benefit of exercise to both individuals and organisations in increasing well-being, reducing perceived stress, and reducing burnout”, the researchers wrote.

“The positive effect of resistance training on personal accomplishment and the psychological distress reducing effects of cardiovascular exercise are exciting extensions of the current literature which, if replicated, can support health and fitness professionals in developing exercise programs for optimal physical and psychological health.”

Reducing workplace burnout: the relative benefits of cardiovascular and resistance exercise.


Objectives. The global burden of burnout cost is in excess of $300 billion annually. Locally, just under half of working Australians experience high levels of occupational burnout. Consequently, burnout interventions are paramount to organisational productivity. Exercise has the potential to provide a multilevel and cost effective burnout intervention. The current study aims to extend the literature by comparing cardiovascular with resistance exercise to assess their relative effectiveness against well-being, perceived stress, and burnout. Design. Participants were 49 (36 females and 13 males) previously inactive volunteers ranging in age from 19 to 68 that completed a four week exercise program of either cardiovascular, resistance, or no exercise (control). Randomised control trial design was employed. Method. Participants were measured against the Subjective Exercise Experience Scale, the Perceived Stress Scale, and the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Results. After four weeks of exercise participants had greater positive well-being and personal accomplishment, and concomitantly less psychological distress, perceived stress, and emotional exhaustion. Cardiovascular exercise was found to increase well-being and decrease psychological distress, perceived stress, and emotional exhaustion. Resistance training was noticeably effective in increasing well-being and personal accomplishment and to reduce perceived stress. The present findings revealed large effect sizes suggesting that exercise may be an effective treatment for burnout. However, given a small sample size further research needs to be conducted. Conclusion. Exercise has potential to be an effective burnout intervention. Different types of exercise may assist employees in different ways. Organisations wishing to proactively reduce burnout can do so by encouraging their employees to access regular exercise programs.

PMID: 25870778 [PubMed] PMCID: PMC4393815

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25870778

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