Is Your Job Leading to Weight Gain?

June 23, 2011

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If you work at a desk job, chances are the results of a new study will come as no surprise: Researchers say people today move less at work than in decades past, and experts are now thinking this may be playing a part in America’s growing weight problems.

I know many of my patients have mentioned that their weight problems began once they started a job that was mostly sedentary, and I believe it. After all, if one sits for 8 hours a day in an office, and sits while they commute to and from work as well, that adds up to a whole lot of inactive time.

While I don’t suggest you search for a more active job (unless you want to!) I would urge you to think about the many possible ways you can make a desk job more active.

Even small changes like standing instead of sitting whenever possible, walking over to a co-worker’s desk to speak with him or her in person rather than via e-mail, and taking the stairs in place of an elevator add up.

If possible, break up your workday with a series of five-minute walks throughout the day. If you work in a large office space, a few laps around the place should do, or if needed, take a break and head outside for a lap or two around the block. These mini-exercise sessions not only boost your metabolism throughout the day, the added circulation and blood flow they provide will also wake you up and help keep you mentally alert as well.

Likewise, make lunch time and other breaks active ones. Do some window shopping. Bring your bike to work. Or try to organize a walking buddy system with co-workers!

If your company has an on-site gym that makes things even easier, but even without such luxuries there are plenty of mini-exercise routines you can do right at your desk that involve stretching, lifting, or using your own body weight to build strength and burn calories.

Another way to add activity to a sedentary job is to learn to fidget. Believe it or not, some experts believe those “naturally thin” people who seem to eat all they want and never gain weight do so because if you watch them closely, they are always moving even when they are sitting down! Tapping their pencil, shifting from one side to another, and wiggling their toes may not look like much, but the small movements are just enough to burn another calorie or two a minute, which add up over an 8-hour day.

In short, try to think of exercise time as all the time, not just something you do for 30 minutes once a day. While you may not want to trade your current job for one that involves non-stop physical labor, it doesn’t have to mean that you can’t be active even if you have an inactive job. It just requires a little creativity and conscious effort to make sure your day spent as a “desk potato” doesn’t end up foiling your medical weight loss goals.

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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[…] many Americans have typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. desk jobs that require little movement. However, sitting at a desk all day makes your muscles and joints stiff, which can worsen the pain associated with arthritis. According […]

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