Money - Jobs
By: - at October 27, 2014

Top 15 Most Physically Demanding Jobs in the World

Hard workerGoing to work usually isn't fun, unless you are one of the few fortunate ones who truly love what they do. For the majority of people who fall into the less fortunate category, maybe you should stop and think if your job is all that bad. White collared jobs are what everyone seems to desire and these jobs also have their negative aspects. One major drawback of a white collared job is that the only physical elements may involve getting up to refill a cup of coffee, chatting with coworkers about what you did in the weekend and walking in from the parking lot into the office.

While nearly all jobs are valuable, useful and have a purpose (or they wouldnít exist), you have to admit that some jobs require a different kind of fortitude. The kind that makes you strong enough to punch a hole through a wall, lift heavy weights like the Hulk and stand on your feet until all you have left are numb, unfeeling stumps inside your shoes. And then you finally go home, drop dead on the bed and fall asleep ó just so you can wake up the next day and repeat the process from the start.

Consider some of the jobs listed among the most physically demanding in the world and after reading this article, you will most certainly find a new found appreciation for those who have made these types of jobs their chosen profession.

15)  Retail Sales
If you donít think working retail is a physically demanding job, then you obviously have never had this type of job. As underrated and underappreciated as this job already is, it also requires a lot of physical effort. You can find yourself lugging around house appliances, furniture, and other really heavy and really big objects, depending on what kind of product the store you work at sells. Imagine moving furniture into and out of your house, and doing this every single day of your life. When you work in a store, you have to constantly set up the displays and put merchandise up on shelves and tables all while staying on your feet. Dealing with customers is another potentially stressful aspect of the job and just because you m ay be off the sales floor for a moment doesn't mean that you actually have any time off. Good luck moving heavy boxes around and doing inventory, and sorting new items for future display is often necessary. If you donít have back problems after a few months of this, then chances are you've married a chiropractor or you are taking some really good painkillers.

Retail Sales

14)  Waiting Tables and Making Food
Waiting tables is a lot like retail, but with the addition of preparing and serving food. Both are jobs that are not very valued. The pay is often ridiculously low; many servers are paid below the minimum wage. Just as in retail, when serving tables, you have to stay on your feet all day, walking non-stop and sometimes even up and down stairs. And there is nothing fun about walking up or down some stairs while carrying a heavy tray full of delicate glass, pointy cutlery or things with the potential to spill at your feet and make you slip.

Waitress carrying food

Aside from all that, as a restaurant employee, there are hot stoves and grills, steam from dishwashers, flames, and the threat of grease fires to worry about. Working in food service can be one of the most dangerous jobs as well. Your hands will be burnt and cut. Your back will ache from standing over tables for hours on end. Your legs and feet will feel like rubber at the end of every shift. Even washing dishes can be a potentially hazardous job in a restaurant. Using industrial dishwashers can burn your hands, destroy the skin on your hands, face, and arms.

13)  Movers
Moving day is every day when you work as a furniture mover. Just imagine all the frustration, murderous intent towards stairs and lifts, and tons of back pain to go with it. Now imagine it every single day. If you just did and you still haven't had a nervous breakdown, then you are naturally a mover. For those that are not, make a quick mental list to all of the health hazards of the trade.

Moving furniture

There is the obvious back pain from lifting heavy weights. Add muscle strain and tearing from days of heavy, strenuous lifting and last but not least the possibility of dropping some of those heavy objects on your foot. Then there are arm injuries, shoulder and elbow injuries, and the constant potential of slipping and falling. You have to be really strong and really careful to be able to do this job every single day and not end in the hospital at least once a month.

12)  Flight Attendant
Flight attendant sounds like a really nice job to have at a glance. You fly for free all around the world, stay at fancy hotels, visit interesting countries and cities, eat exotic foodÖitís traveling, but instead of costing you your life savings, you get paid for it!

Flight Attendant
By Austrian Airlines, via Wikimedia Commons

This notion would be true if you had any time to rest and enjoy yourself between flights. If you have ever taken a plane, you can remember how tired you were after the fact, even if it was a short flight. Imagine that same feeling that you felt after sitting back and relaxing during the entire flight to how it would feel if all you did was wait on customers and stand during the entire flight. If you are a female, add standing in high heels to the mix. Now add walking up and down the plane to attend to the passengers, bring them drinks (added bonus for waiter duties!) and the constant stress your body goes through from being more than 11 thousand feet above the ground for most of your waking hours. Studies show that flying for such long periods of time can affect your heart and circulatory system. Changing time zones constantly encourages jet lag, which can lead to mental exhaustion and fatigue.

11)  Truck Drivers
Being a truck driver is another deceptively difficult job. There is much more to driving all day long than meets the untrained eye. Sitting in the same position for hours takes a serious toll on your circulatory system. Then after driving all day, when you reach your destination, suddenly you have to get down off the truck and unload really heavy pallets, usually with a manual pushcart. Doing heavy physical work when your muscles are cold is never a good idea, so injuries are sure to happen.

Busy truck driver

Driving for any amount of time also requires a lot of focus and attention, which is pretty draining all by itself. When you are driving a vehicle that weighs several tons often loaded with dangerous substances, can make even the most zen drivers on edge constantly.

10)  Construction Workers
Building a house is not easy no matter the size or purpose of the structure. Again, it involves moving and lifting a lot of heavy things (wood planks, bricks or cement sacks, for example). Lifting up walls and working on high places like the roof or the dangerous and precarious top of stairs is something that requires you have a very good sense of equilibrium. Construction workers also have to deal with possibly toxic products that require them to wear heavy safety clothes and even respirators. A construction day is long, with some jobs starting at first light and going until the sun starts to set. It gets even worse in the summer, with longer days and higher temperatures, wearing even the strongest workers down to weaklings.

Construction Workers

9)  Cocoa Farmers
If you are one the many who loves chocolate and other products made out of cocoa, then you might want to go and buy yourself a healthy reserve stash of it because in a few years cocoa may be impossible to find. Cocoa, as it happens, is really hard to produce, so much that cocoa farmers are slowly ceasing production. The job is so hard that itís not worth it for them as cocoa production is barely a cost effective endeavor.

By Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, via Wikimedia Commons

Cocoa is mostly produced in plantations in West Africa under extremely trying conditions. Cocoa trees take five years to grow and produce beans, all while needing constant care and attention under the murderous African sun. As if cocoa production wasn't difficult enough, the labor to collect the beans has to be done manually, because the trees are very tall and you need to climb them to collect the cocoa beans. Often, children are the ones working under these difficult conditions. While a world without chocolate would be a grim one, considering that a good portion of todayís cocoa is produced thanks to child slavery, perhaps it wouldnít be such a bad thing to move away from.

8)  Farmers
Itís not only cocoa farmers that have a hard life but an everyday farmer can probably beat you in any kind of physical contest, even if you are at the prime of your youth and he is a retired old man with white hair and no teeth left. Farming is back-breaking labor, no matter how industrialized your farm is. Planting crops, irrigating them, working the soil, harvesting. Itís one kind of hard work after the other, all year round. If your crops come from trees like at a fruit plantation, then you are forced to climb up a ladder and take care of them individually.

Farm labor

Maybe your farm has more animals than trees, this still doesn't mean you will be getting off easy. You have to constantly clean them, feed them, clean their living space, take them out if they need exercise, watch out for sick ones, and harvest whatever product you get out of them every day.

7)  Fishermen
Fishermen enjoy the vastness of the sea and long days attaining all the riches the ocean can provide. Fishing is usually done either in shallow waters or in the deep sea, and both options are unfortunately very taxing.

Workers unload seaweed kelp from the boat to shore

For starters, managing a boat is not that easy, even if itís a small one. Itís a constant pulling of handles, ropes and levers, then constant maintenance to keep the deck clean. Once you do find what you're fishing for, things can get really difficult. Luckily for you, nowadays a motorized winch can help you take care of lifting heavy nets full of fish out of the water. What motors and nets wonít do for you is separate the catches, clean them and put them in boxes with ice. That privilege is all yours. And all of this is usually done at night or really early in the morning so you can get your fish back to the port to sell it at the market place first thing in the morning.

6)  Miners
Mining is not only one of the most physically taxing jobs in the world but it is also one of the most dangerous. You have to stay deep underground for long shifts that can last more than twelve hours, sometimes even days. Using heavy machinery that requires you hold it against hard rocks while you drill is an everyday thing, and you also have to move the ore you mine up on carts to be transported back to the surface. Crouching when you need to fit through low ceilings and small tunnels will definitely harm your back as well. Many coal miners develop "black lung" from breathing in coal dust over the years. There is always the threat of a cave-in or chemical reaction that could cause an explosion while you are inside the mine. Medical attention wouldnít arrive any time soon, as mines arenít located exactly in the middle of cities with easy access to hospital and doctors.

working miner

5)  Lumberjacks
Lumberjacks have been a symbol of manliness for many years and for good reason as this line of work requires an insane amount of physical fortitude. Whenever you imagine a lumberjack an image of a giant of a man with arms wider than your leg swinging an axe all day readily comes to mind. After all, you canít be a lumberjack if you donít have some serious physical strength as well as some insane endurance. You have to do repetitive moments while holding heavy machinery all day cutting up branches and the fallen trees into logs and pieces that you can lift and carry to a skidder or forwarder (vehicles that take away the logs).

Lumberjack logger worker in protective gear cutting firewood timber tree in forest with chainsaw

Even if you are used to all of the above, you also have to keep in mind the weather conditions that are going to work against you. Rain, wind, the cold and snow are going to fight against you to make you as sick as possible for as many days of the year as it can, too, further weakening your body and taxing your systems.

4)  Oil Rig Workers
Working at an oil rig can be just as dangerous as working in a coal mine. You have to work all day with some of the biggest, heaviest and most dangerous machinery known to man, in extreme conditions, and nearly every little thing around you can cause a fatal accident. You have toxic substances that will cause you respiratory problems and flammable products at very high pressures that can explode at any minute. Oil rig workers have to be very careful not to loose their footings, as a slip on one of these death machines could very well mean certain death. To ratchet up the stress and tension, oil rigs are often the culprit of slicks and spills, so on top of the physical strain, there's emotional and mental strain as well.

Oil Rig Workers

3)  Firefighters
As a firefighter, often your job involves hours of inactivity punctuated by intense stress, fear, and physical exertionóall while wearing suits that can weigh more than 35 lbs. Its like being in the military as far as gear weight goes and also performing a job surrounded by fire. You have to pass highly demanding physical tests and constantly keep in shape as lives truly depend on your ability to perform. You need to be fast, strong, and have quick reflexes. The hoses and equipment used in fire trucks are bulky and heavy, and the water pressure when you use a hose would send any normal person flying. For this reason alone, firefighters are required to be able to bench-press at least 200 pounds. They also need to have perfect sight and hearing and be trained to stand against extreme conditions, especially against high temperatures and under pressure.


Firefighters must be in excellent shape and be emotionally stable as any moment could be a potential call where they have to be ready to respond. Long hours and time away from family goes without saying. 

2)  Soldier
There is pretty much no physical activity that a soldier canít do. Jump, run, drive, crawl in difficult terrain, and use heavy and complicated machinery. You have to battle against all sorts of people and obstacles meant to kill you, so you need to be on your toes and willing to act whenever is necessary. Most people don't have the strength or mental fortitude to become a soldier as the physical requirements to be a soldier are extremely demanding. Many drop out of training due to physical fatigue, psychological issues, or they begin to see that they just can't cut it.


To be a soldier, you have to be strong and flexible, fast and agile, and know your body better than anyone. You also need to know how to administer first aid in case of injury, and of course, you have to learn how to use weapons. Guns are often heavier than they look, even the smaller ones especially when it comes to handling them all day long. Your arms must hold a weapon without shaking, and of course you also need perfect vision.

1)  Astronaut
The reason astronaut is the number one job in this list is that itís such a physically as well as mentally demanding job, that not even past experience as soldier can guarantee a job well done as an astronaut. You're not just moving and working as all of these other jobs require on earth, but you're doing it in outer space which has the many physical disadvantages of zero gravity. That automatically puts this job into a whole category of its own.


While astronauts often do come from the military, soldiers aren't always the best candidates. Astronauts must undergo a series of intense training that puts the human body through things it doesn't experience on Earth. Often, the people who make the best astronauts are also scientists or engineers. Unfortunately, neither career path is typically known for its physical prowess. Fortunately for those who oversee space missions, every single aspect of a mission is insanely trained for where any mess-ups can be left on the earth. 

A zero-gravity environment causes many strains on the body. It affects your heart, circulation, stomach, equilibrium, and even your bone density can suffer. Because your body doesnít do any of the work that supporting its own weight every day, it forces astronauts to continue working out every day even when in space, so their muscles don't atrophy. Good astronauts also need to be really resilient against other ailments, like space motion sickness and orthostatic intolerance. OI is the sensation of dizziness, faintness or banishment some people feel when getting up, and that is never fun, either on Earth or in space.

This list is not meant to make anyone feel guilty about complaining because you have a sore back after sitting for too long, or being stressed about your job because customers are just the worst sometimes. All jobs are tiring in their own way, and not everybody is cut for every task. Thatís perfectly fine and you donít need to beat yourself up over it.

However, itís a good thing to look at some of these jobs and marvel at the people that pull through them every single day for years, because all of these tasks, from cutting up trees to serving tables to spending time in outer space; they are all things that need to be done by someone. And if that someone canít be you, it has to be another person, a person that is on a whole new level when it comes to physical strength, willpower and perseverance.

It doesnít hurt to be a bit grateful, so maybe next time you see a harried customer service worker stacking books, remember that they are working hard to keep their customers happy. Or leave a nice tip for your waiter when you eat out, especially if it's on a busy night. Someoneís got to do the hard jobs, and if you acknowledge and thank them for their efforts, they will feel stronger and work even harder for you. That way you can feel like you are a little part of their awesome strength, and that's always a good thing.





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