Is Your Job Making You Fat?: Tips To Conquer Occupational Health Hazards

We know what causes obesity, too many high calorie foods and not enough physical activity. A recent study by the Center for Disease Control has uncovered one more factor:  Your Occupation.

What you do between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm has a big impact on your weight and your health. And while there’s nothing shocking about the findings of the report the CDC recently released  we can learn from it and put a plan in place to limit the effects our workplace has on our weight.

What you do from 8 to 5 can have a big impact on your weight.

What you do from 8 to 5 can have a big impact on your weight.  Flickr photo by Dan Perry

For the study, researchers reviewed 37,626 people working in the state of Washington.  They used the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System – the largest telephonic health survey system in the world – during odd numbered years between 2003 and 2009 and gathered data on demographics, occupation, physical activity levels, fruit and vegetable consumption, leisure-time activities and smoking levels.

Overall the obesity level of workers in the State of Washington was at 24.6 percent which is lower than the rate across the United States as a whole, which is 35.7 percent.  According to the CDC over one-third of American adults are obese.

What’s more, the CDC report states that “obesity prevalence and health risk behaviors vary substantially by occupation” providing an opportunity for employers, policy makers, and health promotion practitioners to target workplace obesity prevention and health behavior programs.

Which Occupations Are Most At Risk?

Protective service workers and truck drivers had the highest rate of obesity among the 28 groups surveyed.  Transportation and material moving workers, cleaning, and building service workers weren’t far behind.

The occupations with the lowest obesity rates were nurses, food service workers, engineers, lawyers, natural scientists and health diagnosing occupations like doctors.

Older workers had a higher rate of obesity than did younger.  Male workers tended to be more overweight than female as did less educated workers compared to those with a college degree or higher.

Avoiding The Most Common Occupational Hazard

If you’re in an occupation that by nature makes it easy for you to gain a couple of pounds a year, there are things you can do to keep unwanted weight from creeping to an unhealthy level:

Stand Instead of Sit – Whenever you can stand rather than sit it’s better for your health.  If you’re locked into a chair most of the day, make it a point to stand for three minutes every hour.  While you’re standing incorporate some deskercises like squats, bicep curls, and knee lifts right at your desk.  You’d be surprised how just a few minutes of physical activity every hour can have a big impact on your weight and overall health.

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables – The study conducted by the CDC showed that eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables was associated with lower rates of obesity.  Pack salads with light dressings for lunch, bring fruits and vegetables for snacks, and make meals at home that have fresh, whole ingredients that are lower in calories than fast or processed foods.

Workout For 10 Minutes A Day – Find 10 minutes in your day when you can get vigorous physical activity. Whether it is a brisk walk on your lunch hour, a quick HIIT workout before dinner, or a jump rope workout in front of the TV, get in at least 10 minutes of exercise a day.  For best results, work at a level where your heart rate is up and you’re breaking a sweat.

Commit To Weekly Weigh-Ins – If your weight starts to creep up you’re better off if you know about it sooner rather than later.  Weigh yourself at the same time each week using the same scale.  If you put on a pound, adjust your eating and activity levels until the pound is back off.  Tracking the weight in a notebook or on phone app will help you stay accountable.

Get Your Co-Workers On Board – If you’re in a job that’s making you fat, it’s probably doing the same thing to the people that are working beside you.  Start a workplace wellness initiative that supports healthy behaviors like walking meetings and breaks.  Encourage no-fast-food lunches and donut-less meetings and launch weight loss and physical activity challenges for employees to participate in.  Your company’s CEO and leaders are aware of the cost that obesity and the chronic disease associated with it has on the company. I bet you’ll find they are willing to support wellness programs and may even provide some dollars for gift cards and other incentives to help you get your ideas to take off.

These are just a few of the strategies that you can apply to make sure your job doesn’t make you fat. What are some of the things that you do to stay healthy at work?

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