Pandemic pounds are real.
Earlier this year, 42% of individuals surveyed by the American Psychological Association reported a weight gain of 29 pounds on average during the pandemic.
One-third of Americans are severely overweight, a stark obesity fact that can’t be ignored. Excessive pounds can lead to heart problems, stroke, diabetes, and other serious health conditions that can impact an employee’s productivity, energy, and overall health.
Other than the COVID pandemic, one of the most serious public health concerns today is obesity. It’s been proven that those with extra comorbidities like obesity are more likely to struggle harder with a case of COVID.
Employers must find a way to bring these discussions to light for employees. This can help employees take steps to minimize associated healthcare costs later down the road and lead to an overall better quality of life. This post will share obesity facts to spread awareness along with some ideas on helping workers stay in their healthy, happy weight range.
Obesity Facts Employers Should Know
Unfortunately, the nation’s public health issues are far from over.
Obesity is largely becoming a regular topic of concern among health researchers and physicians. While the pandemic wreaked havoc on workplaces, it also wrecked many individuals’ healthy eating habits.
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed 16 states have 35% or higher obesity rates. That's an increase of four states — Delaware, Iowa, Ohio, and Texas — in a single year.
Stress is known to play a key role in obesity, and there has been plenty of stress to go around for most people. While stress eating may help temporarily, it can also cause weight gain that worsens health or creates health issues.
Here’s why helping employees manage their stress and physical health is a must:
Obesity is a Serious Condition
The number one obesity fact employers need to know? Obesity is a costly disease that’s common and serious in the United States. Sixteen states in the U.S. alone have obesity rates over at or above 35 percent.
Obese Workers Miss More Days
Because of the associated health complications of diabetes, many obese workers are likely to miss work. Fit, healthy individuals will have the energy, immunity, and overall good health to stay productive. Research shows those who are obese miss about 56% more work than those who are a healthy weight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Lack of Access Can Cause Obesity
Sadly, not everyone has access to healthy, local food or places to be active, like parks. The CDC reports that 40% of all U.S. households don’t live within a mile of healthier food retailers. Additionally, over 50% of Americans don’t live within half a mile of a park.
Obesity Can Be Deadly
Luckily, obesity is a treatable condition. But for those who are borderline or currently are obese, it’s important to know there are lots of obesity-related conditions that can contribute to even worse health. There are 60+ conditions related to obesity, including stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, which are all among the leading causes of preventable early death.
The Cost of Obesity is Tremendous
In the United States alone, treatment for those dealing with obesity gets pricey. In 2008, obesity accounted for an estimated $157 billion in costs. Not surprisingly, obesity also impacts military recruitment. Across the nation, 71% of those between ages 17 to 24 don’t qualify for the military. Of those, 31% would be disqualified simply for being obese.
Middle Age is a Trigger
Obesity often kicks in right around middle age. In fact, 40% or more of adults in the 40 to 59 age range are obese. Of those 60 and older, about one-third are obese.
Quality of Life Dissipates
When obese individuals can’t get up without assistance, get winded walking to their desks, or can’t enjoy playtime with their kids, they’re missing out on “normal” life because of obesity. This can lead to issues like depression and anxiety. Diabetes is the most common issue related to obesity and can cause a myriad of serious health issues that impact the quality of life — including loss of eyesight.
Ways to Help Your Employees Reduce Obesity Risk
Want to keep your employees within healthy weight ranges? Stress management techniques, inclusive wellness measures, and sharing the stark obesity facts are a few of the ways to address the issue.
Here’s a look at how to reduce the risk in your workplace:
- Schedule biometric screenings - Biometric screenings are a great way to get a pulse on the overall health of your office. That includes BMI readings, which can give workers valuable information regarding their weight. Learn more here about how biometric screenings can uncover sneaky health issues.
- Host stress management classes - Stress is a well-known problem for those who are overweight. Chronic stress or poorly-managed stress leads to elevated cortisol levels which can increase appetite. Left unchecked, it can lead to stress eating. Offer insight to workers on how to de-stress including exercising, doing deep breathing exercises, journaling, or talking to a therapist or friend.
- Make wellness campaigns inclusive - Not everyone loves yoga. Ensure that your wellness and fitness campaigns offer a variety for everyone. Some individuals may want a running group; others may want a healthy cooking group. Employees are all unique in how they like to get information. Survey your team to see what would work best for them and then be inclusive in your planning.
- Share obesity facts and stats - Copy and paste the obesity facts above into an email to share with your employees.
- Bring in a dietician or nutritionist - Getting insight from a professional like a nutritionist or dietician can put healthy eating into perspective for your team. Consider bringing one in for quarterly lunch and learn events to discuss healthy eating tips and the connection between diet and health.
- Tie it to the current pandemic - Bring it up as a topic of discussion related to COVID to help drive the point home. Overweight individuals have impaired immune function and also less lung capacity, which makes it harder to breathe in the event of a COVID infection. Learn more here.
- Host regular fitness challenges - Keep your team active by hosting ongoing fitness events to keep them engaged. Everything from steps challenges to the couch to 5k challenges are a great way to keep them looking forward to fun fitness events.
- Post encouraging signs around the workplace - Remind your workers to take the stairs, park away from the office, stretch, and make healthy choices. You can put signs in highly-trafficked areas with funny memes posters to catch their attention.
As you can see, the conversation about obesity can’t wait. The fact is this common, chronic disease increases the risk for illness and decreases the opportunity for longevity. Remember that it takes time to implement programs to inspire individuals to get on a healthy lifestyle track. Encourage healthy eating, frequent movement, positive stress management, and smart lifestyle choices in the workplace on a regular basis for the best results.
Check out our massive resource section for free downloadables like wellness challenges, fitness challenges, and other ways to encourage your employees to enjoy healthy living!