The physical activity paradox: A longitudinal study of the implications for burnout

Juriena D. de Vries*, Arnold B. Bakker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: This study investigates the independent and interactive associations of physical job demands and three types of off-job physical activity (during transportation, household, and recreation) with burnout. We use a recently proposed new conceptualization and assessment of burnout including core and secondary burnout symptoms. We predicted that physical job demands would be positively and the three types of off-job physical activity would be negatively related to burnout. Further, we hypothesized that the negative relations between the three types of off-job physical activity and burnout would be stronger for employees with low (vs. high) physical job demands. Methods: To test our hypotheses, we conducted a two-wave survey study among a heterogeneous sample of full-time workers (N = 355), using a longitudinal design with a half-year time lag. We tested cross-sectional, prospective and longitudinal relations. Results: Hierarchical regression analyses partly confirmed our predictions. Cross-sectionally and prospectively, it was shown that physical job demands were positively related to burnout symptoms. In addition, off-job physical activity was negatively related to primary and secondary burnout symptoms among employees with low physical job demands and positively related to burnout symptoms among employees with high physical job demands. However, these relationships disappeared when investigated longitudinally. Conclusion: Together, these findings suggest that not all off-job physical activities can prevent burnout, and that potential positive effects of physical activity during off-job time may depend on employees’ physical activity level at work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)965-979
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2021

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