This may come as no surprise to some of you… but working longer than the normal 40 hour week leaves you predisposed to excess belly fat or becoming obese. Yep, the best way to lose fat might be to knock off as soon as the the hooter sounds. Your waistline will thank you for it.
Think about this for a second. If you spend most of your time at the office or place of employment when do you find time to sneak in a daily dose of exercise, or to prepare healthy and nutritious meals? Considering supplementary time spent commuting to and from your job; no wonder it often feels your life is consumed by work!
The American Journal of Preventative Medicine recently published a study that investigated the prevalence of obesity amongst US workers. Researchers grabbed data from the National Health Interview Survey in 2010 which was analysed in 2013. The data was used to calculate prevalence rates for obesity in relation to work week length, schedule, work environment, industry, occupation and the hostility of work environment (amongst other metrics).
Alongside the primary revelation that working week length was positively correlated with obesity risk, the research team also stumbled across a number of other interesting conclusions.
One of the more concerning was that those exposed to a hostile work environment were increasingly likely to become obese. Is your boss or an authoritative figure within your company particularly confrontational? Do you find a work colleague extremely difficult to deal with? This could be affecting your belly fat levels.
Why? One proposal suggested a stressful day encourages individuals to reach for comfort foods to unwind from the stressors of work.
The research also looked at industry types that correlate with increased belly fat and there were some startling observations. Strangely, people who work in the healthcare industry tend to have higher obesity rates than others. In particular: healthcare/social assistance, public administration, utilities, information, transportation/warehousing and manufacturing were the worst culprits when it comes to excess belly fat.
When the research team analysed this in greater detail, and adjusted for demographic and behavioural factors, healthcare and public sector workers obesity levels were significantly higher than average.
Think about this for a second. The group that are tasked with keeping us healthy are at highest risk of obesity related health complaints themselves…
The authors blame the sedentary nature of certain occupations. But you would have thought seeing first hand the results of unhealthy living day in and day out might be enough to kick start healthcare workers into a relevant diet or exercise regime. Just a thought.
I am working over 40 hours a week. How do I stay slim?
There are a bunch of things busy people can do to stay slim. Here are a couple of the strategies that health.com recommend for staying fit when you're ‘under the pump’.
Increase your water intake
Water consumption helps you lose weight. Not only does sufficient water intake stave off hunger, it also encourages avoidance of high calorie sodas or sugary beverages. In fact staying hydrated might be one of the fastest ways to lose belly fat.
Have healthy snacks on hand
We all know the feeling. You're at work or away from the house and hunger pangs kick in with a vengeance. You should search around for a healthy snack to tide you over until the next meal. The reality is often very different. Junk foods are readily available and awfully tempting during a moment of weakness. Ensuring healthy snacks are on hand helps avoid lapses in judgement, consumption of high calorie and low nutrition foods, as well as reducing intermittent periods of fasting that can impact fat burning metabolism.
Exercise harder not longer
The best way to lose fat is not via time consuming training sessions. Workouts need not be long to deliver results. Time is precious, so optimise what time you do have by completing short high intensity workouts. Get your heart rate pumping hard and minimise rest time. An intense workout will provide the added benefit of increased 'afterburn' – burning calories long after you have finished your exercise.
A review of current research by Stephen H. Boucher in 2011, published in the Journal of Obesity, summarised the impacts of High Intensity Interval Training on fitness, fat loss, skeletal muscle and insulin resistance. Boucher observed significant improvements in aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and dramatic effects on insulin sensitivity, both acute and chronic.
He also identified promising results when surveying effects on subcutaneous and abdominal fat loss, but cited the need for further research with overweight individuals in this area. For busy people interested in fat loss, the brevity of this type of training should be attractive. The following article on shape.com provides an alternative argument stating its okay to work out at lower intensity.
Get plenty of sleep…
After a long day at the office finding time for a sufficient volume of sleep is critical. An increase in the stress hormone cortisol is associated with over tiredness, and this is also linked to overeating. A good nights rest will ensure you are refreshed for work the following day, promoting enhanced decision making, a critical element in weight management.
Don’t make a meal of it
An easy trap to fall into when working long and hard is the lure of easily accessible fast food meals. Planning meals during the weekend is key to a healthy diet throughout the week. Even if all you have time for is a bit of preparatory work such as grilling chicken or cutting up veges - this will still assist weight loss endeavours. If you must go for fast food, look for a healthier option such as sushi or salad. Avoid heavily processed alternatives.
Make an appointment
Create your fitness schedule at the beginning of the week. Identify times you'll be able to exercise and stick to them as you would any other meeting or appointment. Easier said than done I know, but make plans with the fluidity of your working environment in mind.
Do you currently work in excess of a 40 hour week? How do you find time for exercise or healthy eating? We would love to hear from you below.