Over the last couple days, I’ve heard a few stories about a recent study that compared the average amount of calories workers burned today than in the 1960’s using Bureau of Labor Statistic and government obesity data. Researchers found that Men burn an average 142 fewer calories a day at work; women, 124. That may or may not sound like a lot, but when you throw in other factors such as increased portion sizes, it’s not difficult to see how it adds up. The study showed that this decline matches the steady increase in rates of obesity over the last 50 years.
Timothy Church, the study’s lead author, is the director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. He says, “”The jobs requiring moderate physical activity have all but disappeared.” Jobs requiring moderate physical activity, which a made up 50 percent of the labor market in 1960, account for just 20 percent now. Most Americans now make a living sitting on their ass all day.
While the researchers caution that a sedentary workplace may only be part of the puzzle, I think it’s important to examine and bring to the public’s attention. The focus has been mainly on food and leisure-time physical activity for many years, yet with Americans more obese than ever, I’m glad to see the workplace, where many spend the majority of their waking time, being looked at. Obesity is a lifestyle disease, and approaching the issue from various angles may be the best way to treat it.
I’m not saying everyone needs a treadmill desk, but being able to discuss their particular workplace environment and physical activity habits is a conversation I do think everyone should have the opportunity to have with a healthcare professional.