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Gaining weight? Blame your desk job

Consumer Reports News: May 26, 2011 04:08 PM

Your 9-to-5 might be making you fat, according to a study out this week in the journal PLoS ONE. It found a strong connection between the increase in the average weight of Americans, and the decrease in job-related physical activity.

The researchers looked at physical activity in the work place using two large government sources: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, and the Current Employment Statistics. They found that in 1960, almost half of Americans worked in jobs that required at least moderate-intensity activity, such as agriculture, construction, and manufacturing. But now that most of us work in service industries such as education, financial services, and trade, only 20 percent of us are that active at work.

Today’s average worker burns about 100 fewer job-related calories a day. That might not sound like much…but repeated five days a week most weeks of the year, it can really pile up, as too many of us know all too well.

Bottom line: It’s probably not a great idea to abandon your office job in the name of health, but you can make your job more active. Take the stairs, instead of the elevator or escalator. Stand at your desk instead of sitting, or balance yourself on a stability ball. Go for a walk during lunch—just 30 minutes is moderate activity and burns about 100 calories. Stock your office with simple exercise equipment: dumbbells, an exercise mat, and stability ball can make workplace strengthening and toning simple and convenient. And instead of hitting “send” on that e-mail or instant message, get up, stretch your legs, and get some face time with your co-workers for a change.

Also consider packing your own healthy lunch instead. See our advice on how to control your weight, as well as our recent diet Ratings.

Trends over 5 Decades in U.S. Occupation-Related Physical Activity and Their Associations with Obesity [PLoS ONE]

Ginger Skinner

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