A new study may allay concerns that strenuous exercise could up the risk for developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an incurable neurological disease that Blacks often see a delay of diagnosis in.
No evidence of rising ALS risk was seen among adults who routinely work up a sweat by playing team sports or engaging in heavy gym workouts. Nor was increased ALS risk associated with less intense leisure activities, such as running, biking or walking.
But investigators did observe that strenuous physical activity on the job was linked to higher ALS risk.
“Heavy exercise at work was associated with a double risk [for] developing ALS,” study lead author Dr. Angela Rosenbohm says.
The team stressed that their research does not prove that intense labor causes ALS. Other factors could be in play, they note, including on-the-job exposure to harmful chemicals and pollution, or the long-term impact of performing repetitive motions that typify certain professions.
ALS is often called Lou Gehrig’s disease in memory of the baseball legend who died of it. The average life span is two to five years after diagnosis, and those with the rare disease lose the ability to initiate and control normal movements.
On-the-job activity was characterized as either light, including those engaged in desk jobs and/or driving; moderate, such as typical of salesmen or mechanics; or heavy, as often seen among masons, farmers and construction workers.
No increased ALS risk was seen for those whose jobs entailed light physical labor. And no type or amount of physical activity — whether performed on the job or off — was linked to greater risk for ALS up until five years prior to an ALS diagnosis.
But the team found that about 22% of newly diagnosed ALS patients had heavily physical jobs during