THURSDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- As Americans sit --
literally -- in more sedentary jobs, they're packing on the pounds,
and it's this inertia that's a major contributor to the obesity
epidemic, new research suggests.
Staring at the computer for hours rather than hoeing the fields
means Americans are burning 120 to 140 fewer calories a day than
they did 50 years ago.
So promoting any kind of physical activity needs to have an even
greater emphasis in this war on weight, according to a study in the
May 25 online edition of the journal
"It's all about calories in and calories out, and we're putting more calories in than we're taking out," said Dr. Robert Graham, a primary care physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
A tilt towards calories in has resulted in two-thirds of U.S.
adults now being overweight or obese.
Although both eating habits and exercise have been studied in
relation to the obesity epidemic, these researchers, from the
Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., said
much of the blame for the extra poundage has been placed on calorie
That's because the amount of leisure-time physical activity
hasn't really changed over the years.
But what about the physical demands of work, where so many
people spend most of their waking hours?
These researchers cross-referenced U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics on the prevalence of different jobs with a large
national database that includes information on body weight.
Fifty years ago, about half of private-industry jobs in the
United States involved some kind of physical activity, things such
as farming, mining, construction and manufacturing. Today, that
number is less than 20 percent, thanks to the dominance of jobs in
retail, education and business.
The authors estimated that 100 fewer calories going out every
day would result in a weight gain in line with what the U.S.
population has seen since 1960.
Yet, if Americans were following federal guidelines for physical
activity (150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75
minutes of more vigorous activity), those extra calories would have
been evened out.
Only one in four Americans is doing the recommended level of
exercise, the authors stated.
"We need to encourage physical activity even more,
especially given that we sit more during the day than we did
100 years ago," said Keri Gans, a spokeswoman for the American
Dietetic Association and author of
The Small Change Diet.
"The demands of everyday life are competing with exercise," Graham added. "We just have to make time for it."
Gans recommends that people move at work even if they have what
amounts to a desk job. That could mean taking the stairs when you
can, walking over to a co-worker's desk when you can and going for
a walk at lunchtime. And if your company happens to have a gym or
exercise program, by all means, partake.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on how to