Adam Senn is one big trucker.
At 6 feet and 5 inches tall, the 34-year-old truck driver from Green Bay, Wis. weighs 450 pounds. He says the long hours, high stress, and lack of sleep he experiences on the road all contribute to his obesity.
“I don't think trucking attracts bigger people, more that the lifestyle leads to weight gain,” Senn said. “Truck stops aren't exactly health food havens. You can find healthy choices in them, but the junk food is easier to grab-n-go.”
Truck drivers, according to a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have the highest rates of obesity for any occupation in the U.S.
The study surveyed 37,626 employed residents of the state of Washington using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System every other year from 2003 through 2009. Washington has an average obesity rate of 26.8 percent, lower than the national average of 35.7 percent.
The survey showed that workers in protective services, such as police officers and security guards, were nearly 2.5 times more likely to be obese than workers in health diagnosing occupations, such as doctors, the fittest field of work.
Many professionals, especially police and hospital workers, don’t always have time to shop around for healthy food. They grab meals when they can, and they’re often interrupted to respond to emergencies.
The Top 5 Fattest Professions
- Truck driving
- Transportation and material moving
- Protective services, including police officers and firefighters
- Cleaning and building services
- Healthcare services, including nurses and orderlies
The Top 5 Fittest Professions
- Health diagnosing occupations, including physicians, dentists, optometrists, and veterinarians
- Natural scientists and social scientists
- College and university professors
- Health assessment and treatment occupations, excluding registered nurses
- Other professional specialties, including librarians, social workers, clergy, writers, musicians, and athletes
Researchers did note some oddities within certain occupations. For example, they reported that firefighters and police officers had high rates of obesity, but also had the greatest amount of off-time vigorous physical activity.
Shaping Workplace Wellness Programs
The CDC suggests that data from the occupational obesity study could be used to shape workplace wellness programs that target specific professions.
In June, the CDC launched an $8 million workplace wellness program for 104 businesses, non-profit groups, and government organizations in its inaugural National Healthy Worksite Program under the Affordable Care Act.
However, data from the largest study to date on the effectiveness of such programs, done by the RAND Corporation, a non-profit think tank, found that less than 20 percent of eligible employees chose to participate.
Exercise, smoking cessation, and weight loss are the most commonly targeted behaviors in workplace wellness programs.
As for Senn, he’s working on his weight not for the job, but for his own benefit. He’s been adjusting his lifestyle and uses workout equipment in his truck. He says he's lost about 65 pounds in the past year and a half.
“I am losing weight since I started using the system in my truck, along with cutting out sodas and most of the junk food,” he said. “I can't seem to kick candy bars, completely, however.”