Morbidly Watching Obesity's Growth

Playing tennis the other day on a hot summer morning reminded me of my childhood in Salisbury, Md. My friends and I played baseball and other sports, but tennis was #1 for the entire community. Bill Riordan, a local man who loved the sport, had lured the national indoor tennis tournament from New York City, and my hometown loved it. While writing this column, I found a 1964 Sports Illustrated article online that tells how Riordan brought the tournament and top players of that era to town and made the event a success.

Today's Marylanders aren't playing enough tennis or engaging in other kinds of exercise, but that's true across the board. CDC reported July 8 that the percentage of U.S. adults who are obese increased to 26.1 percent in 2008 from 25.6 percent in 2007; 32 states had an adult obesity rate of 25 percent or higher last year, and just one, Colorado, was below 20 percent. CDC's interactive map traces the steady increase state by state, using data from CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Take a good look: This map is a disheartening display.

Employers, the government, health authorities and associations — everybody, it seems — realizes we must reverse this unhealthy slide or the rising costs will bankrupt us, not to mention that our lives will be shorter and less pleasant. Obesity is a risk factor for chronic diseases and the flu, after all.

A well-known ergonomist, Dr. Jerome Congleton, Ph.D, PE, CPE, of the Texas A&M University Health Science Center, talked about obesity when we met at the Safety 2009 conference in June. "We have to stand," he said, pointing out that sedentary workers will lose 20 pounds per year by intermittently standing for 15-20 minutes several times a day. This recommendation is fully explored in the 2nd Edition of "Could You Stand to Lose: Weight Loss Secrets for Office Workers," a book written by Mark E. Benden, Ph.D., CPE, executive vice president of Neutral Posture Inc. Visit www.standtolose.com and www.neutralposture.com to learn more.

This article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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