It’s not exactly news that there’s an obesity epidemic in the United States. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), 35.7% of adults in the U.S. were obese between 2009 and 2010. Mark Huffman, an assistant professor of preventative medicine and cardiology at Northwestern University, projects that this percentage will rise to about 43% in 2020.
There are many factors that contribute to an unhealthy weight, but the bottom line is that overweight and obese people consume more calories than they use to perform their daily activities. For most adults, these daily activities are performed at work and compose the majority of their waking hours. In a recent study conducted at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, scientists found that the decrease in physical activity in the workplace over the past 50 years is a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic. So for office workers like myself, who sit at a desk for most of the day, losing excess weight or even maintaining a healthy weight is an exceptional challenge.
When CompassLearning hired me about two years ago, I was accustomed to a regular workout routine and was able to balance work and life fairly well. But between the steep learning curve that comes with a new, fast-paced job and the long hours required to keep up with an aggressive production schedule, I found myself facing a sudden imbalance between work and life. The effort I had once put toward regular exercise quickly shifted to the work side of the scale, and I gained about 15 pounds in under a year. Seemingly overnight, I went from having a very active lifestyle to a highly sedentary one. After a year of this, I knew it was time to re-balance the scale.
One of my first changes was to balance my energy input by reducing my portion sizes and the frequency with which I consumed cheese and eggs, both of which are high-protein yet high-fat food items. I normally stick to beneficial foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, so I was already on the right track with eating the right types of foods. I was just consuming too much of them.
Now, keep in mind that this energy input needs to be balanced with energy output. If you work in an office environment, this can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. It helps significantly when your place of employment encourages its employees to be active. For example, some employees at CompassLearning (CL) routinely walk a quick mile on the streets of downtown Austin twice a day. CL supports this effort, and it also incentivizes alternative transportation to and from work by reimbursing employees $60 a month for turning in their parking passes. Thus, many CL employees choose to bike to and from work instead of driving. This option is further supported by the showering facilities that CL makes available to its employees.
In addition, a number of employees have been taking advantage of group fitness classes offered by Jacob Wood of Organic Fitness and Training (OFAT). He leads one-hour sessions, conveniently at our place of employment, before and after work hours. Loyal OFAT trainee Laurie Nissen says, “I hate to miss a class! It is hard not to be dedicated when you have the convenience of a professional personal trainer in your office.” Participants can choose to take part in morning or afternoon classes two to three days a week. “There’s no going back for me; resistance training will surely be a part of my life twice a week at least,” added another enthusiastic OFAT trainee.
Recently, CompassLearning agreed to subsidize the cost of Jacob’s training fees for its employees. This rate reduction has encouraged many new participants like Adrienne Albregts to join. She shares, “Jacob’s class made me realize that no matter how good of shape you think you’re in, there’s always room for improvement. I come from a family affected by both heart disease and cancer, so every hour I sweat in Jacob’s class is an extra hour of improved health.” The rate reduction has also encouraged several former participants like Martin Rodriguez to return to the classes. He says that he’s “glad to have access to such a knowledgeable and inspirational trainer. [Jacob’s] classes have improved my core strength that has resulted in better overall posture throughout the day.” I personally have been encouraged by the rate reduction and have advanced from participating two days a week to three. Another committed OFAT participant, Nancy Sherman, exclaims, “I love the class and am so glad that Compass is helping, and that makes it even better. It is a win-win situation all around.”
It’s a “win-win” because healthy employees make more productive employees, and they also save a business money by keeping healthcare costs low. So if your place of business pays for healthcare, there’s a financial incentive for them to keep employees eating right and exercising. The University of Michigan Health Management Research Center estimates that an organization saves $153 annually when a high-risk employee’s health risks are reduced and $350 annually when a low-risk employee remains low.
Low-risk employee and faithful OFAT trainee Sofia Milton shares what it means to her to train with Jacob after work: “It’s a full-body workout, and I feel amazing after each class, physically and mentally. His classes are fun, and I enjoy working out with both my coworkers and friends! Working out with Jacob has motivated me to eat healthier and really try to balance my exercise and diet!”
And I couldn’t agree more. Thanks to these group classes, I’ve just started to be able to get back into some pre-desk-job clothes! The pounds are slowly dropping: I’m burning more calories than I’m taking in. I’m thankful for CompassLearning’s support, Jacob’s training, and the camaraderie that exists between those of us who bust our butts every other day to fight desk-job body syndrome (DJBS).
What are you doing to stay active during the workday? How is your employer helping you to stay in shape? Share your comments below.