It’s no secret that Americans spend too much time sitting. Long hours working in offices, commuting in cars, and watching TV or playing video games for relaxation render many of us near motionless for entire days. Health experts keep encouraging everyone to move more, but that is not easily done considering our existing work and living environments. The consequences are plain to see, and they are among the greatest health concerns facing us today.
According to surveys conducted by employment website CareerBuilder, most industries see their employees gaining weight. Almost half of the workers interviewed for this latest study said they put on weight at their current job, with more than 20 percent having gained 10 pounds and 9 percent having added 20 pounds or more.
Office workers seem to have the hardest time staying fit and trim. More than half in this category described themselves as overweight. Older employees, especially females, are more likely to have weight problems than their younger colleagues. Those in leadership positions are particularly vulnerable.
“Weight gain in the office is common and is a result of a variety of issues, including today’s economic stress and poor eating habits,” said Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder's vice president of human resources.
There is not just one culprit to point to. Half of those interviewed in the 2012 survey named having to sit at their desk for hours on end as the primary reason for becoming heavier. However, it’s not only the sedentary lifestyle but also poor diets at home, frequent snacking, eating out several times a week, overeating because of stress and anxiety, sleep deprivation, and lack of tools to better cope with all the pressure experienced that makes certain individuals prime candidates for unhealthy weight gain and a host of other health problems that come with it.
Employers realize the implications of a fatter and sicker workforce, not just for the workers themselves but their own bottom line. Company-sponsored wellness programs are now the rule rather than the exception, at least among larger firms. But still much more needs to be done.
Workers must receive better health education as well as opportunities to apply their knowledge. Some companies provide sports and workout facilities on site. Some improve their cafeteria menus and offer healthier choices. Not all can afford these, but every workplace can foster a health-conducive climate in some ways, perhaps through seminars, counseling or other incentives to build an environment where everyone can preserve and nurture their health and well-being. It’s one of the best investments they will ever make.