New research from ACAP Health shows that the ongoing obesity epidemic in the United States could be related to the fact that the average American is not getting enough physical activity at their job.

Dr. Tim Church, Chief Medical Officer for ACAP Health, and his research partner, Dr. Corby Martin, Ingestive Behavior Laboratory Director for Pennington Biomedical Research Center, came to the following conclusions in their research perspective, The Obesity Epidemic: A Consequence of Reduced Energy Expenditure and the Uncoupling of Energy Intake? The research was published in the January 2018 edition of Journal: Obesity.

Key Learnings:

  • Amount of “formal” exercise has not changed – The effect of changes in physical activity in relation to the growing obesity epidemic have been dismissed in the past because the percentage of Americans participating in “formal” exercise (e.g. running, swimming, circuit training) has not changed over the past few decades. However, that stance ignores the fact that formal exercise plays a very small role in the total expenditure of energy achieved through daily physical activity
  • Total daily physical activity fuels total energy expenditure – Total energy expenditure is driven by total daily activity, which is primarily determined by occupational exercise (e.g. walking, lifting, standing up, sitting down and/or moving at work)
  • Physically-active jobs have decreased significantly – According to records col­lected by the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) in the 1960s, 50 percent of individuals had a job that required a level of physical activity that would meet the current daily physical activity goals. By 2006, less than 20 percent of Americans had jobs that required the current recommended level of physical activity
  • Less occupational exercise = less calories burned – The loss of occupational exercise has led people to burn between 100 – 150 less calories each day, which has corresponded closely with average amount of weight gained as people lost opportunities to be active while on-the-job

 Overall Conclusion

The article developed and published by Dr. Church and Dr. Martin shows that formal exercise has not changed in the past 50 years, but occupation-related physical activity (the types of jobs that most Americans have and the physical activity required for the job) has decreased significantly during that same period of time. In fact, the expected weight gain for individuals based on the reduced amount of physical activity is nearly identical to the actual weight gain observed in the population.

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