Is Your Job Making You Fat? Fight Back with Work Workouts
Studies have found
that the average American work week is nearing 50 hours, with an average
commute of 25 minutes each direction, each day. Some analysts state that if we
continue on this path, a 70 hour work week is not too far behind. But what effect
is this tendency to overwork having on our health and our waistlines?
According to one study, over a quarter of the workers surveyed stated they had gained at least 10 pounds while working in their current jobs. Thirteen percent had gained more than 20 pounds.
Causes of Work Weight Gain
So what is causing
workers to gain this weight? There is no one answer to this question. Weight
gain at work can be blamed on almost anyone or anything from Bill Gates to tempting
candy dishes to an inept coworker.
Common reasons for packing on the pounds at work include:
- Technology -Email and instant messaging have made it much easier to communicate without leaving your chair. Automation has taken the physical aspects out of many jobs, including the need to go to a file room for a paper file because it can now be accessed on the computer.
- Stress - Workplace stress not only causes many people to crave carbohydrates (including sugar) and after-work drinks, but it also causes the body to create extra cortisol, which can lead to fatty deposits around the midsection.
- Commutes - With longer commute times, some people are not eating breakfast at all or are grabbing a fast-food breakfast from a drive thru. Also, getting home later is causing workers to eat dinner at late hours.
- Unhealthy Food Choices - In many cases, people with desk jobs work through their lunch and breaks. When they take the time to eat, it is usually something fast and convenient, such as a snack from the vending machine, more fast food, or a raid on one of the many candy dishes strewn about the office. Many workers who do take advantage of their lunch breaks use it as an opportunity to escape work and go out to lunch with coworkers and friends. Restaurants that cater to this work crowd tend to give larger portions and may not offer the healthiest options.
- Lack of Physical Activity - The increasing amount of time people are spending at work and commuting tend to reduce free time for exercising.
Fighting the Flab
If you have already gained weight from your job, or you simply want to prevent the work weight gain, there are steps you can take, such as:
- Stock Up on Healthy Food - Bring in healthy snacks, including fruit, vegetables, low-fat yogurt, low-fat whole-grain crackers, whole-grain pretzels, and granola. These snacks should help you avoid temptations from snacks that are high in fat or sugar.
- Have Face-to-face Discussions - Instead of picking up the phone, sending an email, or instant messaging coworkers, get up and visit them in person. If they work on another floor, take the stairs.
- Eat Breakfast - Skipping breakfast can slow your metabolism and may also make you more susceptible to binging later in the day.
- Take Healthy Breaks - Take a work break every 20 minutes. During your scheduled breaks (including lunch), be sure to leave your desk. Try to fit in at least short walks (five-minute walks during your mid-morning and afternoon breaks and a fifteen-minute walk during lunch).
- Pack Your Lunch - Bringing your lunch will not only save you money, but it will also allow you to control your portion sizes and make smart choices.
- Start Drinking - Keep a bottle of water at your desk and drink from it all day. Water is a key component to many weight loss programs.
- Keep Your Mouth Busy - By chewing sugar-free gum, you will curb the urge to snack at your desk.
- Fidget - Although it won't replace the benefits of true exercise, studies have shown that people who fidget (tap their toes, stand and stretch, and make other extra movements throughout the day) can burn as many as 350 calories more than their sedentary coworkers.
Taking the Fight against the Office Weight Gain to the Next Level
If you are already using
the above recommendations, there are things you can do to take your work
workout to the next level. Just realize that you may elicit some curious stares
from your coworkers.
Additional steps you can take to add physical activity to your workday include:
- Use Under-the-desk Exercise Machines - These small machines fit under your desk and can allow you to burn extra calories through a pedaling or stepping motion.
- Replace Your Chair with a Balance Ball - Forcing your body to balance strengthens your core muscles and helps burn more calories.
- Create a Desk Workout - The typical desk workout can take about five minutes. Popular components of desk workouts include:
- Wall push ups
- Jumping jacks
- Chair squats
- Torso twist
- Water bottle curls
- Start a Weight Loss Support Group - These groups can take the form of true support groups or they can follow the growing trend of Biggest Loser-type competitions among coworkers.
Start Slow and Don't Look Back
yourself by implementing too many changes at once in order to fight work weight
gain. While it is great to start a healthier diet and devise a new workout
plan, it is okay to start small and build from there.
It can be as simple as replacing one vending machine snack with a piece of fruit. That two-pack of Pop Tarts® has over 400 calories; an apple has less than 100 calories. This daily change could result in a one-pound loss in about two weeks.
If you have not been exercising, start by taking a short walk during lunch. That first step, both literally and figuratively, can start you on the path to getting rid of that extra work weight.
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