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February 10, 2014
Truckers weigh in heaviest. Are your workers packing on the pounds?

A large study in Washington State concluded that truck drivers were the most obese workers, followed by cleaning-service employees and mechanics. Heavy employees often have more health issues, which can cost you money. Is there anything you can do?

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The survey of 38,000 workers over 4 years did not draw direct links between types of jobs and excess weight. But the research did suggest that some jobs are harder on the waistline than others. The survey found, for example, that people who work in sales and tech support are heavier than doctors, lawyers, and construction workers. The results were published in the January issue of the CDC journal, Preventing Chronic Disease.

“People spend about a third—or even half—of their waking hours at the workplace,” said study lead author Dr. David Bonauto of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. He emphasizes that any steps that promote a healthier work environment will be “meaningful and helpful for both employee and employer.”

The research found higher levels of obesity among males, those with less education, and those in the lowest income groups. Nonsmokers were more likely to be obese than smokers. And those who consumed more fruits and vegetables and exercised more had a lower prevalence of obesity.

What can you do to prevent obesity among your employees?

The Harvard School of Public Health recommends a multidisciplinary approach that focuses on providing workers with the knowledge, skills, and support to eat better and be more active. Successful strategies include the following:

  • Provide nutrition classes, on-site exercise facilities, nutritionists, and company polices that deliver healthier food options and reimburse exercise-related expenses.
  • Reduce job stress, don’t overload employees, and provide work breaks.
  • Offer weight management programs or incorporate weight management into existing health and wellness programs.
  • Address the needs of all employees, regardless of age, gender, culture, job type, or physical/intellectual capacity.
  • Use incentives to promote healthy behaviors (e.g., money, gifts, days off, recognition).

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