Since we spend the majority of our waking hours at work, the physical activity requirements (or lack there of) of our jobs can undoubtedly play a large role in our overall health and body weight. As you have probably noticed, over the last 50 years, the workplace environment in the U.S. has drastically changed from a focus on agricultural and goods producing occupations to a focus on service providing occupations. With this shift, there has also been a shift in the physical activity demands of the work we do from most previously requiring moderate activity, to most jobs currently being classified as either sedentary or requiring only light intensity activity.
Along with the decrease of work-related physical activity, this country has also seen an increase in the average body weight. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) indicate that daily occupation-related energy expenditure has decreased by more than 100 calories per day. While this may not seem like a lot – it does add up and could account for a majority of the increase in the incidence of overweight and obese individuals in the U.S. For instance: If you were to decrease energy expenditure by 100 calories per day (and not decrease food/beverage intake by the same amount) then you would gain close to 10.5 lbs over the course of 1 year!!
So how does your job measure up in terms of helping you meet the goal of 10,000 steps per day (remember from my Pedometer Challenge and Pedometer Recap posts I mentioned that was the number recommended for general health)? You can look through the charts accompanying this study for information or refer to this handout by the American Council on Exercise. The latter examines the amount of steps employees take in 10 different fields. They discovered Secretaries and Teachers to be the least active of the occupations studied, averaging less than 5,000 steps per workday; Lawyers, Police Officers, Nurses, Construction Workers, and Factory Workers (listed in order of increasing steps/day) averaged between 5,000 – 10,000 steps per workday; and Restaurant Servers, Custodians, and Mail Carriers (once again listed in order of increasing steps/day) averaged above 10,000 steps per workday.
How active do you think your job allows you to be? Do you schedule time in your day to get up and move around if your work is very sedentary in nature? Remember from my post about the latest ACSM Exercise Guidelines that a sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for disease, even if we are meeting the other exercise guidelines! So therefore, I encourage you all to find ways to get moving more during your work days – even if you will be running several miles after you clock out!