Craig Leonard

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Less Calories Burned At Work Contributing To Obesity Crisis

Craig Leonard March 3, 2016
Burn More Calories At Work and Stay Fit

The problem of weight gain and rampant obesity in America is a multi-faceted one.

Food becoming more calorie-dense, refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, added sugars, soda consumption, carb-heavy diets, addicting ingredients, hormonal imbalances, lack of self-discipline, hydrogenated oils, the convenience and affordability of fast food, sedentary lifestyles, along with many other factors, all bear some of the responsibility.

Another factor contributing to the rise of the American obesity crisis is the reduction in the average number of calories burned while American’s are at work each day:

People Burning Fewer Calories While Working

Source: Church TS, et al. Trends over 5 Decades in U.S. Occupation-Related Physical Activity and Their Associations with Obesity. PLoS One, 2011.1

As you can see from the data above, the daily occupation-related caloric expenditure has decreased considerably over the last 50 years. On average, men are burning about 150 fewer calories per day at work today than they were in 1960. Women are burning approximately 125 fewer calories while at work each day.

At first glance this may not sound like much. It can really add up over time, though.

Assuming the average full-time worker in America works 240 days in a given year – the equivalent of 48 work weeks to account for 4 weeks of vacation, sick time, and holidays off – men are expending 36,000 fewer calories per year at work, while women are expending 30,000 fewer calories per year.

Given that a pound of fat is the equivalent of approximately 3,500 stored calories and we can easily conclude that the difference in occupation-related physical activity between 1960 and today has greatly contributed to the obesity crisis in America.

The difference in calories expended at work amounts to about 10 additional pounds of fat accumulating on the bodies of working men year over year. For women, it’s about 8.5 pounds.

When we consider the millions who don’t work, spending their days at home being sedentary and eating junk food, the situation we’re facing comes into even greater focus. Of course, not all who are out of work (by choice or circumstance) can be accurately described this way, but many can.

This also speaks to the increasing importance of getting some form of exercise each day to compensate for the sedentary nature of many occupations today. Even just 20 minutes of easy exercise 5 or more days per week can more than make up for the calories we’re not burning at work these days.

How To Burn More Calories At Work

Believe it or not, there are ways you can burn additional calories each day while at work without looking like a weirdo doing push-ups in your cubicle, which I’m totally cool with, by the way. If you’re not looking to attract that much attention, though, here are a few ways you can burn off some extra calories at work without much effort or spectacle:

  • Park further away from the entrance to your building. This will force you to have to take a few hundred extra steps just by entering and leaving your place of work each day.
  • Make a conscious effort to stand whenever possible. You’ll burn as many as 50 more calories each hour standing than you will sitting.2
  • Set a timer on your phone or computer to go off every hour to remind you to get up and stretch. 15 minutes of easy stretching throughout the day will burn around 25 calories. It might not sound like much, but it adds up.3
  • Take a short walk at lunch. A short, brisk, 15-minute walk will burn 100 calories.

If there’s something you like to do while at work that allows you to burn off some extra calories, be sure to share it by leaving a comment at the bottom of this page.

While there are a litany of factors we can point to as contributing to the obesity epidemic in America, those who truly desire to live fit and healthy lifestyles will find a way to make it happen. Excuse makers abound in our society; those who blame their problems on anyone and anything except where it truly belongs: themselves.

There’s no hope for these people until they snap back to reality and start taking some personal responsibility. Daily pity parties and finger pointing never bettered anyone’s lot in life.

Does it seem like the cards are stacked against us at times? Of course. But winners press on and put in work.

And we do it despite the majority of foods being sold today being tainted with synthetic ingredients that are toxic, addicting and make us fatter; despite our sedentary occupations; despite the haters; despite our failures; despite whatever else life throws our way.

Because that’s what it takes to succeed.


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