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.
- Set out exercise ball chairs that encourage employees to do crunches and other ball exercises
- Purchase TrekDesks (a combination desk, treadmill, and exercise ball) or other “active sitting” chairs
- Offer discounted (or free!) gym memberships to nearby spots
- Give employees “recess” time where they are encouraged to go out and be physical. Dodgeball, anyone?
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.