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Promoting health and physical capacity during productive work: the Goldilocks Principle
National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Copenhagen.
University of Gävle, Faculty of Health and Occupational Studies, Department of Occupational Health Science and Psychology, Occupational Health Science. University of Gävle, Centre for Musculoskeletal Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1443-6211
School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, Perth, Australia.
2019 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, ISSN 0355-3140, E-ISSN 1795-990X, Vol. 45, no 1, p. 90-97Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]


In spite of preventive efforts, organizations and employees face several challenges related to working life and occupational health, such as a substantial prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders, social inequality in health and physical capacity, multi-morbidity, an obesity epidemic and an aging workforce. We argue that a new approach for occupational ergonomics and health is required, going beyond prevention of harm caused by work. We propose the ´Goldilocks Principle´ as a new approach of how productive work can be designed to literally promote health and physical capacity.


Physical (in)activity profoundly influences health and physical capacity, with effects depending on the extent and temporal structure of the (in)activity. Like the porridge, chair and bed that needed to be ‘just right’ for Goldilocks in the fairy-tale of ´The Three Bears´, physical activity during productive work needs to be ‘just right’ for promoting rather than deteriorating health and capacity. In many jobs, physical activity is, however, either ’too much/high/frequent’ or ’too little/low/infrequent’ to give positive biomechanical and cardiometabolic stimuli.


The paper presents the rationale, concept, development, application and prospects of the Goldilocks Principle for how productive work can be designed to promote health and physical capacity.


We envision a great potential to promote health and physical capacity by designing productive work according to the Goldilocks Principle, thus leading to benefits with respect to the current challenges related to working life and occupational health for society, organizations and employees.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 45, no 1, p. 90-97
Keywords [en]
Physical activity; Physical work demands; Sedentary behaviour; Workplace health promotion; Ergonomics; Occupational health
National Category
Occupational Health and Environmental Health
Research subject
Health-Promoting Work
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-26505DOI: 10.5271/sjweh.3754ISI: 000466176700010PubMedID: 30021029Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85055081942OAI:, id: diva2:1201472