Desk jobs making more people obese, study finds

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Desk jobs are increasing obesity, with many employees and employers ignorant of the risks of sitting down all day, researchers said on Wednesday.

“Obesity is an epidemic, rising at troubling proportions,” said John S. Evans, a senior lecturer at Harvard School of Public Health in the United States.

The School, which cooperates with the Cyprus International Institute for the Environment and Public Health, said a link between obesity and conditions in the workplace was growing.

“As the workplace becomes our second home, our traditional diets have been swapped for fast food that is high in saturates,” said Evans, one of the researchers.

Two billion people worldwide will be overweight by 2015, and more than 700 million will be obese, according to the researchers, whose EU-funded study examined exercise and working habits across the European Union.

“A basic cause of obesity related to the workplace is a lack of awareness of how serious this issue is among employers and employees,” said Athena Linos, an epidemiology lecturer at Athens University. “Factors include work-related stress, overtime and desk-bound jobs.”

The researchers found that 19 percent of Dutch citizens and 31 percent of Irish citizens perform no exercise at work. Fifty-five percent of Greeks and Croatians and 61 percent of French people do no exercise at all, Linos said.

A lack of designated areas for employees to store and eat their food, and a lack of onsite gyms were among the factors increasing obesity, the researchers said.

Researchers said employers should introduce fitness incentives for staff and offer a break from desk-bound routines.

“The word ‘fun’ is the most important word in promoting health in the workplace,” said Finn Berggren, president of the Gerlev P.E. and Sports Academy of Denmark.

Editing by Farah Master