The 27 most back-breaking jobs in America

  • The most physically active job in America is being a dancer, followed by athletes and sports competitors.
  • Using data from the Labor Department’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET), we ranked how physically active jobs are based on the average of five variables that measure physical activity.
  • Some of the most physically active jobs include fitness trainers and aerobics instructors, structural iron and steel workers, and forest firefighters.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

When you think of the most physically demanding jobs out there, you might think of professional athletes or construction workers.

But you might be surprised which other jobs get you moving and require an astonishing amount of physical fitness.

To find out, we used data from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), a US Department of Labor database with detailed information on jobs.

We looked at O*NET’s ratings for five different types of physical activity and strength requirements: dynamic strength, explosive strength, time spent walking or running, stamina, and trunk strength. All are ranked on a scale 1 (low) to 100 (high) measuring how important each characteristic is to the job.

Read on to find out which jobs are the most physically demanding, based on the average importance of those five categories.

Erin Brodwin contributed to an earlier version of this post.


27. Landscaping and grounds-keeping workers

source
Shutterstock

Overall activeness score: 50.6

What they do: Landscape property grounds using hand tools or other equipment. Work typically includes things like laying sod, mowing, trimming, planting, watering, fertilizing, digging, raking, and installing sprinklers.

Top three activity areas:

1. Time spent walking or running

2. Trunk strength

3. Stamina


26. Brickmason, block mason, stonemason, and tile and marble setter helpers

source
Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock

Overall activeness score: 50.8

What they do: Help brickmasons, block masons, stonemasons, or tile and marble setters by handling tasks that require less skill. They often help use or supply tools or assist with cleaning equipment.

Top three activity areas:

1. Trunk strength

2. Time spent walking or running

3. Dynamic strength and stamina


23 (tie). Roofers

source
Thomson Reuters

Overall activeness score: 51.4

What they do: Cover roofs with shingles, slate, asphalt, aluminum, wood, etc. Roofers may also spray roofs, sidings, and walls with binding and sealing material.

Top three activity areas:

1. Trunk strength

2. Time spent walking or running

3. Stamina


23 (tie). Baggage porters and bellhops

source
andresr/ Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 51.4

What they do: Greet guests upon arrival, bring guests’ luggage to their rooms, and use baggage carts.

Top three activity areas:

1. Time spent walking or running

2. Trunk strength

3. Stamina


23 (tie). Installation, maintenance, and repair worker helpers

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Matt Cardy/Stringer/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 51.4

What they do: Help installation, maintenance, and repair workers maintain and repair parts, vehicles, machinery, and electrical equipment. They may also help furnish tools, materials, and supplies to other workers; clean the work area, machines, and tools; and hold materials or tools for other workers.

Top three activity areas:

1. Time spent walking or running

2. Trunk strength

3. Stamina


21 (tie). Adhesive bonding machine operators and tenders

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Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 51.6

What they do: Operate bonding machines that use adhesives to join pieces of a product, from turning veneer sheets into plywood; gluing paper; or joining rubber and rubberized fabric parts, plastic, simulated leather, or other materials.

Top three activity areas:

1. Time spent walking or running

2. Trunk strength

3. Stamina


21 (tie). Tree trimmers and pruners

source
South_agency/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 51.6

What they do: Operate machines to cut off excess or dead tree limbs. They also remove tree limbs that are too close to power lines.

Top three activity areas:

1. Trunk strength

2 (tie). Time spent walking or running

2 (tie). Dynamic strength


20. Correctional officers and jailers

source
Shutterstock

Overall activeness score: 52

What they do: Guard inmates in accordance with established laws, sometimes as they transit between jail, courtroom, prison, or other places. Includes deputy sheriffs and police who spend the majority of their time guarding prisoners in institutions.

Top three activity areas:

1. Time spent walking or running

2 (tie). Explosive strength

2 (tie). Trunk strength


19. Construction carpenters

source
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 53

What they do: Build and fix wood, plywood, and wallboard structures with carpenter’s hand and power tools.

Top three activity areas:

1. Time spent walking or running

2. Trunk strength

3. Stamina


18. Stonemasons

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Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 53.4

What they do: Build stone structures like piers and walls, and lay walks, curbstones, or special types of masonry for vats, tanks, and floors.

Top three activity areas:

1. Trunk strength

2. Time spent walking or running

3. Stamina


16 (tie). Mining roof bolters

source
Thorney Lieberman/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 53.6

What they do: Use bolting machines to drill bolt holes that will support roofs within mines.

Top three activity areas:

1. Time spent walking or running

2. Trunk strength

3. Stamina


16 (tie). Manufactured building and mobile home installers

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Charlie Rogers/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 53.6

What they do: Move or set up mobile homes or premade buildings.

Top three activity areas:

1. Trunk strength

2. Time spent walking or running

3. Stamina


15. Municipal firefighters

source
Maskot/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 54

What they do: Respond to emergency calls and put out fires. They rescue people from burning buildings and other locations.

Top three activity areas:

1. Stamina

2. Dynamic strength

3. Trunk strength


14. Drywall and ceiling tile installers

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welcomia/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 54.2

What they do: Apply plasterboard to ceilings or interior building walls, or apply or mount tiles or blocks, strips, or sheets of shock-absorbing materials to ceilings and walls to reduce sound.

Top three activity areas:

1. Time spent walking or running

2. Trunk strength

3. Dynamic strength


13. Nursery workers

source
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 54.4

What they do: Cultivate, harvest, and transplant trees, shrubs, or plants.

Top three activity areas:

1. Time spent walking or running

2 (tie). Stamina

2 (tie). Dynamic strength


12. Fallers

source
stockstudioX/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 54.8

What they do: Use axes or chainsaws to cut down trees and minimize damage.

Top three activity areas:

1. Time spent walking or running

2 (tie). Stamina

2 (tie). Trunk strength


11. Forest firefighters

source
REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Overall activeness score: 55.6

What they do: Control and put out fires in forests or empty public land.

Top three activity areas:

1. Trunk strength

2. Stamina

3. Dynamic strength


10. Brickmasons and block masons

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splain2me/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 55.8

What they do: Lay and bind building materials like bricks, tiles, concrete, cinder, glass, and terra-cotta blocks to build or fix things like walls, partitions, arches, and sewers.

Top three activity areas:

1. Trunk strength

2. Dynamic strength

3. Time spent walking or running


9. Fence erectors

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Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 56

What they do: Build and fix fences and gates with hand and power tools.

Top three activity areas:

1. Time spent walking or running

2 (tie). Trunk strength

3 (tie). Stamina and dynamic strength


8. Reinforcing iron and rebar workers

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uchar/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 57.6

What they do: Set up and secure steel bars or mesh in concrete forms to reinforce concrete using tools like fasteners, rod-bending machines, blowtorches, and hand tools.

Top three activity areas:

1 (tie). Time spent walking or running

1 (tie). Trunk strength

2. Stamina


7. Choreographers

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Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 58.6

What they do: Come up with new dance routines, rehearse performances, or direct shows.

Top three activity areas:

1 (tie). Stamina

1 (tie). Trunk strength

2. Dynamic strength


6. Cement masons and concrete finishers

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Jung Getty/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 58.8

What they do: Smooth and finish poured concrete surfaces like floors, walks, sidewalks, roads, or curbs with hand and power tools. Align forms for sidewalks, curbs, or gutters; patch voids; and use saws to cut joints.

Top three activity areas:

1. Time spent walking or running

2. Trunk strength

3 (tie). Dynamic strength and stamina


5. Structural iron and steel workers

source
REUTERS/Patty Chen

Overall activeness score: 60

What they do: Raise, place, and bring together iron or steel girders, columns, and other structural parts to make completed structures. Some iron and steel workers also build metal storage tanks and assemble premade metal buildings.

Top three activity areas:

1. Trunk strength

2. Time spent walking or running

3. Dynamic strength


4. Orderlies

source
SDI Productions/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 60.8

What they do: They assist patients in hospitals or nursing homes.

Top three activity areas:

1. Time spent walking or running

2. Trunk strength

3 (tie). Dynamic strength, explosive strength, and stamina


3. Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors

source
Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Overall activeness score: 62

What they do: Guide exercise activities for groups or individuals. Demonstrate proper form and techniques, watch participants, and help teach them how to improve their skills.

Top three activity areas:

1. Stamina

2. Trunk strength

3. Dynamic strength


2. Athletes and sports competitors

source
Laszlo Balogh/Reuters

Overall activeness score: 63.4

What they do: Compete in athletic events.

Top three activity areas:

1. Stamina

2 (tie). Explosive strength

2 (tie). Dynamic strength


1. Dancers

Overall activeness score: 66.4

What they do: Perform routines on stage, for on-air broadcasting, or for videos.

Top three activity areas:

1 (tie). Dynamic strength

1 (tie). Stamina

2. Trunk strength