• 05.27.11

Your Job Is Why You’re Fat

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

Your Job Is Why You’re Fat
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]

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.