As technology has made many jobs more sedentary, record numbers of Americans are also piling on the pounds, with new research confirming what many of us already suspected, this inactivity is a big contributor to the increase in obesity. Americans are actually burning from 120 to 140 less calories a day compared to just 50 years ago, in part because occupations have shifted from physically demanding to not so much. No surprise that the numbers of those overweight or obese have skyrocketed to what many consider epidemic proportions during these same years.
Researchers place a lot of the blame on calorie intake, though eating and exercise have both been widely studied. But with most of us spending more of our waking hours at work - what we do (or don't do) during those hours has a significant impact on daily activity.
Fifty years ago around 50% of jobs in the U.S. called for some type of physical activity (farming, construction, mining, manufacturing) as an integral part of the work, today it's around about 20% thanks to jobs in retail, business and education.
The authors contend that around 100 fewer calories burned each day would lead to the weight gain similar to what we've seen since 1960. If we were all following the government guidelines for being active (150 minutes of moderate activity, 70 minutes of vigorous activity) each week then we'd make up for the extra calories, but few of us are actually doing this, hence the levels of obesity and overweight. Only 25% of Americans are achieving this recommended amount of exercise on a regular basis.
It's the demands of our hectic life that make fitting in exercise so tough. Work and family keep us hopping, and our always on world doesn't help matters. What will is getting up and getting moving.
Putting conscious effort into moving more each day is a smart start. Suggestions like taking the stairs, parking far from the door, walking over to see at co-worker cube instead of sending an email, taking a walk at lunch or between meetings. If your company has an onsite gym, use it. If your benefit program helps out with the cost of health club memberships, take advantage of it.
The study authors suggest that companies need to do more to encourage activity at work... not only helping to stem the tide of obesity, but perhaps cutting the number of injuries as the unfit try to workout on the weekends.
In a book by a registered dietician the cornerstone of the plan is that the smallest, most simple changes can have a significant impact on what you eat and what you weigh. Working at your own pace, you take each tip in turn, and move on once you've mastered it. In no time you'll have made ten smart changes that will truly impact your weight. Not just for today, or the upcoming reunion... but from now on.
There's a great quote on exercise that drives the point home, especially true in today's mostly sedentary, "no time to workout" world with it's increase in obesity. "If you don't make time for regular exercise, sooner or later you'll have to make time for being ill"- the words of Edward Stanley (1826-1893).
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