Working in an Obesogenic environment
The obesogenicity of an environment has been defined as ‘the sum of influences that the surroundings, opportunities, or conditions of life have on promoting obesity in individuals or populations’.
The UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has put part of the blame for obesity on “obesogenic environments”. What are they? In simple terms, environments that encourage people to eat unhealthily and not do enough exercise.
The changing work landscape
As the work landscape has changed over my working life, a higher percentage of people now work at desk bound and office jobs where any form of exercise during the day is limited.
In 2019, only 11% of the workforce were employed in skilled trades and 6% in process, plant and machinery based employment (gov.uk)
My father worked in the building trade for most of his working life, having completed his two years National Service in The Merchant Navy. Two tough years as a stoker, crossing the equator many times, his work was always to say the least, very physical.
I spent some weekends and school holidays doing some laboring with my father and know how tough his job was, which he stayed at until his body couldn’t take any more in his early sixties.
No need for my father or his peers to go the gym after work. I have no doubt his physical fitness gained at work helped kept him going until 91 when he passed two years ago.
Most of my family worked in ‘blue collar’ jobs with me being the ‘rebel’ and moving into a white collar career (or not real work as they called it!) in firstly retail management at 19 and then into the ‘wonderful world of sales’(hmm!).
For some years I was a great (bad) case example driving over 65,000 miles a year and spending up to 4 nights a week in one faceless hotel after another, with ‘pub grub’ as my main source of nutrition and the nightly temptation of a couple of beers on expenses to up my calorie intake.
For those in sedentary roles, we need to find our exercise elsewhere. We spend 8 hours a day plus sat at our desks and a couple more in our cars and on trains commuting.
‘Sitting is the new smoking’, and we are just not designed to do this as much as a lot of us do.
It puts a strain on our bodies from our limbs to our internal organs. Without extra-curricular physical activity, we lose stamina and gain wait. I am a prime example!
It is essential therefore for us to get up and about during the day. We must take note of our Fitbits nagging us at ten to the hour and NHS guidelines to get up every 30 minutes, even if it is just to make a hot drink or take a comfort break.
I have become a great advocate of a lunchtime walk which not only helps burn a few calories, but helps loosen those aching joints too.
A good desk and work station set up helps too. KML Occupational Health can provide your company with a free paper based DSE assessment guide which will help you make changes to reduce the strain on your joints and eyesight.
In this sedentary environment, it is just as important to get a regular health check as those in physical roles. As a 50 plus member of society, I now am called into my GP every 5 years for ‘a man MOT’. Despite not being a physically fit as I could be, I am considered low risk. Others that look fitter than me can just as easily fail.
At KML we had a nice letter from a desk bound 40 something noting how a medical from one of our team saved his life. Very high blood pressure, on to GP then NHS Cardiac Department, Diagnosed with collapsed artery near his heart, stent put in same day. Thankfully, he is doing fine, now.
According to the Fellowes Workplace Wellness Trend Report
- An overwhelming majority (87%) of workers would like their current employer to offer healthier workspace benefits, with options ranging from wellness rooms, company fitness benefits, sit-stands, healthy lunch options and ergonomic seating.
- The majority (81 percent) of UK office workers spend between four and nine hours each day sitting at their desk, equating to an average of 67 sedentary days per person each year,
- 64 percent claimed their office environment also had a negative impact on their health.
Mark Blunden – KML Occupational Health
Helping to maintain a healthy workforce – www.kmloh.com