Americans are burning less calories than they did fifty years ago and becoming obese as a result, is the conclusion of a recent study published in the May 25 issue of PLoS ONE. According to a study conducted by Timothy Church and his colleagues from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, since the 1960s Americans have transitioned from employment in the goods and agricultural sector to jobs in the service sector.
Because office work doesn't require a lot of physical activity, employees are expending an average of 100 calories less than American workers did fifty years ago. As a result of the drop in calorie expenditure, Americans are becoming heavier.
Church and his team arrived at their conclusion by analyzing fifty years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) and various Department of Labor statistics. The number of people working in goods and agricultural jobs has been decreasing for the past fifty years, whereas the percentage of people employed in service sector occupations e.g. education, leisure and professional services increased from 20% in 1960 to 43% in 2008.
Workers employed in jobs such as mining and construction expended calories through moderate physical activity, whereas all of the service sector jobs were either sedentary or light physical activity (and low caloric expenditure). For example, when plotting data for the physical activity and occupation-related daily caloric expenditure (how many calories burned on the job each day) from the past fifty years, the researchers saw that men and women experienced a steep decline in the amount of calories they expend on a daily basis.
Weight Gain In America Coincides With The Shift From Physically Demanding Jobs To Sedentary Occupations
As a result of the fifty year shift in the nation's labor demands - transitioning away from physically laborious jobs to occupations that don't require a lot of physical exertion - Church and his colleagues estimate a 100 calorie drop in daily energy expenditure, a decline which they believe may explain the rise in the mean weight of Americans over the same time period.
The researchers explain that they chose to study occupation-related energy expenditure because that is how most Americans spend the majority of their waking hours, which provides valuable information about the effect that daily activities have on body weight. They also considered the effect of caloric consumption on body weight and determined that since people were actually eating less food, changes in the amount of food consumed could not explain the increased weight gain that our country is experiencing.
The Pennington Biomedical Research Center team suggests that people participate in physical exercise during their leisure hours. This makes a lot of sense, really. People spend most of their waking hours sitting down, either working at a desk or watching TV. Since they're not moving around very much, sedentary people don't burn up many calories; instead it gets stored away as fat.
In my article Diet Or Exercise? Which Is Most Effective In Treating Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome?, I wrote about some of the science behind physical activity and weight loss. Put bluntly, in order to lose weight, people must expend more calories than they consume. The surest way to ensure this is to participate in aerobic and resistance training activities. Regular exercise will have a noticeable effect on overall health of most Americans, not only will exercise help them to lose weight, it will also lower their chances of developing illnesses commonly associated with obesity. In other words, regular exercise will help America to put a dent in the obesity epidemic.
What Does This Study Mean To You?
So what is the take home message from the Louisiana State University occupational weight gain study? Get up and get active, make the time to exercise because it will do your body good in the long run.
Turn your back on evil. Turn to face the glory of the living God and serve Him so that He will bless you with everlasting life.
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Church, T.S. et al. Trends over 5 Decades in U.S. Occupation-Related Physical Activity and Their Associations with Obesity. PLoS ONE online edition May 25, 2011. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0019657
"Office Work Is Making Americans Fat" copyright 2011 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.