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Your Job Is Why You're Fat

Add boring desk jobs to list of seemingly unavoidable reasons why Americans are gaining weight.

TV dinner at computer workstation

Add desk jobs to the myriad reasons—including driving and your mother's pregnancy habits—why Americans are so fat. According to a new study, the drop in workplace physical activity over the last 50 years has helped trigger record obesity rates in the U.S.

The problem is fairly obvious: Fewer jobs (less than 20%) require moderate exertion, compared to 50% of private industry jobs half a century ago. More sitting means fewer calories burned, which in turn means higher rates of obesity. The researchers conclude that "this reduction in energy expenditure accounts for a significant portion of the increase in mean U.S. body weights for women and men." The study estimates that men aren't burning an extra 142 calories a day because of their sedentary jobs. That adds up to 15 pounds a year.

But wait! Just because you have a desk job doesn't mean you're doomed to obesity. There are a number of ways that employers can help desk workers burn calories.

These tweaks might not make your employees particularly buff, but they're a much-needed start in a country where people sit in their cars, sit at their desks, and then at the end of the day just sit on their couches.

[Image by Flickr user larskflem]

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

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  • Marcus Marsden

    People are fat because they want to be fat. Those who dont want to be fat do something about it, Those who do want to be fat, dont. Simple as that.

  • Mark S

    Working while standing up helps, too. You can get workstations that raise or lower into standing and seated positions.

  • Jean-Michel Paris

    Exercising is essential to makes you fit for physical activities; unfortunately, it will not help you reduce your weight. The overload of carbohydrate that most people eat is what makes them fat. All this is now clearly and firmly established by solid science.

    Our problem in America is that over the past half century, doctors and nutritionists have servilely (some would say sheepishly) bowed to the official position of their respective professional corporations and were thus led astray of scientific knowledge to espouse a disastrous fat vilification position. This was (and is) a scientific fraud and constitutes the principal obstacle to bring diabetes and obesity under control.

    Such misconduct of the official authorities is so serious that almost no one in those profession is prepared to admit the error outright and adopt a scientifically valid position. 

    What a mess.

  • John Q. Corporate

    Great article!  Of course, the overweight epidemic is not a random coincidence.  In the late 1940's, the executives became concerned with the fact that most Americans were relatively physically and mentally fit. The fear was that this strong middle class could choose to rise against them and take power into their own hands!

    During an undercover executive conclave held in a bunker in one of the Dakotas, top ranking executives from many industries devised a complex scheme to neutralize this threat over a period of decades.  The stealth assault was comprised of several waves but here are a few we know for sure:1.  They voted unanimously to change the diet of the country to be dependent on higher fat foods, preferably cooked in grease.2.  They invested heavily in the entertainment industry to ensure employee would spend their free time sitting and watching others live the lives of their dreams.3.  They made the daily work environment far more sedentary by creating cubicles and touting the importance of head down work.4.  They created a concept of "stress" and partnered with the drug companies to convince over half of the workers that they were afflicted by it or depressed by it.5.  They decided to automate everything they could as quickly as possible and move as much business to a digital platform as technology would permit.  This forever linked employees to terminals.The process was long but the results could not have been better for the executives.  This newest generation of employees are even coming to the work place overweight and with low expectations!  Of course the diabetes and mental health costs are rising at an unsustainable rate but as the wise executives knew even then: that is a government issue.If you are concerned about this and many other hard-hitting employee-related topics it is time to join us.Sincerely,John Q. CorporateCEO, employeehumor.comAuthor, Executisms, Volume 1

  • Kristin Eide

    It can be such a challenge to get up and move while working at a desk all day! At my office we have started sitting on exercise ball "like" discs that require us to stabilize our core muscles while we sit! My boss wrote a blog article which gives DYI instructions on how to build a treadmill desk if you're interested!

  • Nicholas Paolini

    I'm pretty sure sitting on an exercise ball isn't going to get anyone doing crunches at work. And the standing desk or even better the treadmill desk are great, but completely out of the realm of likelihood in many offices. The realistic alternative is a great task/desk chair the promotes movement. There are ergonomic chair companies dedicated to these type of chairs and are very comfortable...
    Sitting for prolonged periods of time is never good, but if sitting is a must sit in something good.

  • Andrea Newell

    I work at home and I rigged up my own treadmill to hold my laptop. Even walking slowly (tough to type walking quickly), an hour or two makes a real difference. Great for doing research, social media, and email. I hope more businesses come up with creative solutions to alleviate the interminable sitting, especially since our workdays are so long now.