Workers, employers look at obesity in workplace trends

Miami HearldSeptember 23, 2009 

It's 6 p.m. and you still have tons of e-mail to answer. You find yourself grabbing a bag of chips from the office vending machine and settling in for another hour or two -- again.

Is there any wonder half of America's employees haven't exercised in the past 30 days and obesity levels are climbing?

In the midst of the most vigorous national healthcare debate in 15 years, the link between our work life and our weight is intensifying. Two-thirds of the U.S. workforce is overweight.

The economic crisis has exacerbated the obesity epidemic: Workers are putting in longer hours, afraid of losing their jobs. With less time to exercise, more than a third of employees report that work drains them of energy, leaving nothing for their personal lives.

At the same time, pay cuts and rising food prices, particularly for more nutritious foods, are making fast food and vending machines a quick and cheaper option during a lunch break.

``There's a big relationship between our health and the kind of environment we work in,'' says Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, which released a report Tuesday on the State of Health of the American Workforce.

The question is how do we get employers to care, particularly when many businesses are fighting for survival.

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