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The More You Sit at Work, the More You Weigh?

Desk Jobs May Raise Obesity Risks, Especially Among Men

WebMD Health News

July 19, 2005 -- A desk job may be good for your wallet, but it could be bad for your waistline, according to new research.

An Australian study shows that men who sit at their desks more than six hours a day are nearly twice as likely to be overweight than those who sit for less than 45 minutes a day on the job. But women may not face the same risks thanks to more time spent on their feet at the office.

Researchers found men sat at their desks an average of 20 minutes longer a day than women, which ended up making a big difference in their risk of being overweight.

Even after adjusting for age, occupation, and time spent physically active outside the office in leisure activities, the study showed that the more time men spent sitting on the job, the more likely they were to be overweight. No such association was found in women.

Researchers say the findings suggest that the workplace may be playing an underappreciated role in fostering the growing problem of overweight and obesity.

Desk Jobs Breed Obesity?

In the study, which appears in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers collected information on more than 1,500 men and women employed in full-time jobs in Australia.

They compared data on body mass index (BMI, a measure of weight in relation to height used to indicate overweight and obesity), sex, occupation, leisure time physical activity, and time spent sitting at work.

The results showed that the workers sat for an average of more than three hours a day at work, with men logging an average of 209 minutes and women logging an average of 189 minutes per day at their desks.

One in four workers spent more than six hours a day chained to their desks, and researchers found several factors were linked to spending more time sitting at the office:

  • Men aged 30 or under spent significantly less time sitting at work than older men.
  • Male professionals sat more than men employed in white-collar or blue-collar occupations.
  • Women who worked in blue collar jobs spent less time sitting on the job than both female professionals and white-collar workers.

Slightly more than 60% of the men and 45% of the women studied were classified as overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9) or obese (BMI of 30 or higher).

Researchers found a significant relationship between the amount of time spent sitting at work and the risk of being overweight or obese in men, but not in women.

For example, men who spent more than six hours sitting at their desks were nearly twice as likely to be overweight or obese as those who spent less than 45 minutes sitting on the job.

In addition, a higher total daily sitting time was associated with a 68% increase in the odds of being overweight (BMI over 25).

"The current findings present the sedentary workplace as a potentially hostile environment in terms of overweight and obesity," write researcher W. Kerry Mummery, PhD, of Queensland University, and colleagues.

The immediate association between occupational sitting time and overweight and obesity presented here may be a precursor to an association between occupational sitting and chronic disease in the workplace population, they write.

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