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Are Sedentary Jobs to Blame for Americans' Obesity?
My husband recently started a sedentary job and while his diet and exercise have not changed much, after being there only six months, he’s gained ten pounds. Sound familiar? According to new research, the increase in sedentary jobs in the past five decades may have contributed to America’s increase in obesity. The study was lead by Timothy Church, director of preventive medicine research at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. He and his colleagues examined the change in Americans’ physical activity at work and compared it to Americans’ average body weight. The results indicate a negative effect.
Activity Down, Weight Up
The study reveals, “In the early 1960's almost half the jobs in private industry in the U.S. required at least moderate intensity physical activity whereas now less than 20% demand this level of energy expenditure.” Specifically, men burn 142 less calories a day at work, while women burn 124 less than they did in 1960. Results of the study show the decrease in work-related activity “closely matched” the increase in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) average weight numbers during the same time period.
The Economy and the Scale
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of overweight Americans has stayed statistically similar in the last 50 years at around 30%, however, obesity has increased by almost 20 percentage points since 1960. Church suggests it’s a matter of changes in the economy, “…work-related physical activity has decreased dramatically, and it appears to have impacted obesity in this country." He used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Current Employment Statistics to compare the number of jobs in the U.S. that require sedentary, light, or moderate activity over time. The findings show a drop from 30% to 12% in manufacturing, mining, and logging jobs which require moderate activity, and an increase from 20% to 43% in service jobs, which require light or sedentary activity.
Solution: Diet and Exercise
Many argue that increasing physical activity, whether at work or during leisure-time, will not solve the obesity problem if the change in Americans' diet is not also addressed. Barbara Rolls, professor of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University points to recent research that claims that caloric intake has increased in past decades. When added to less physical activity at work, the resulting increases in weight gain is a no-brainer. She adds, “Our eating habits have changed. Portion sizes are huge, we're eating more food away from home, high-calorie foods are everywhere. We have opportunities to eat all day, and we're doing it.”
If you’ve seen your weight balloon since you’ve taken a sedentary job, try to burn 100-plus calories a day during your two 15-minute breaks. Ways to start include taking a leisurely walk with a co-worker, or carrying books up flights of stairs. For those of you who don’t enjoy regular breaks or have short lunches, simply get to work 30 minutes earlier to get the physical activity you may not get otherwise. If your stuck at your desk, try these exercises. On the other hand, if your problem is related to eating more at your sedentary job, you’re already a step ahead using the tools you have on Calorie Count. Set your daily calorie and nutritional goals, log your food and exercise and you will eventually lose the excess pounds.
How much weight have you gained since taking a sedentary job? Did you lose after leaving?