IT workers: How that desk job wears your body down

Too much junk food, too little exercise and a 24/7 tether to technology? Your body ain't happy, friend. Let us count the pains.

Your sedentary, stress-filled job wreaks havoc inside and out.

Your sedentary, stress-filled job wreaks havoc inside and out.

Gut

Over the years, a lifestyle of poor food choices and lack of exercise pretty much guarantees weight gain and loss of muscle mass. And IT workers in particular are at risk of gaining weight.

According to a May 2008 CareerBuilder.com survey of approximately 7,700 employees, 34 percent of respondents who identified themselves as IT workers said they had gained more than 10 pounds in their current job, and 17 percent had packed on more than 20 pounds. While IT workers' weight gain was less than those in financial services and government, it was still above the average, for all workers who took the online survey, where 26 percent said they had gained 10 pounds and 12 percent had gained 20 or more.

The same survey showed that a mere 9 percent of all workers head out to the gym during lunch breaks to work off those calorie-laden restaurant lunches (38 percent eat out twice or more per week) or frequent snacks (66 percent of those surveyed snacked once a day, with nearly 25 percent indulging twice a day or more).

Weight gain, particularly when around the middle, where it tends to collect in middle age, has been directly linked to metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that increase propensity for heart diseases and diabetes, among other problems. Diabetes, in turn, opens the door to a host of other issues, including blindness, sores that don't heal and more serious maladies. Type 2 diabetes occurs most frequently in people who are 45 or older and overweight, according to the American Heart Association.

Another unpleasant side effect of obesity, especially as it relates to diabetes and metabolic syndrome, is testosterone deficiency, which can lead to erectile dysfunction and lowered libido, according to reports from endocrinologists.

Legs

If you're stuck behind a desk all day, the lack of exercise over time can lead to loss of muscle mass, and losing muscle mass decreases a person's ability to keep weight off, NSMC's Waldman says. "When it comes to muscle mass, if you don't use it, you lose it," he says, "and muscle is far more effective at metabolizing calories than fat."

Just as cardiovascular disease, brought on by poor diet and insufficient exercise, can affect the arteries around the heart, so too can it affect blood flow to extremities such as the legs. Office workers with a poor diet and insufficient exercise can over time develop peripheral vascular disease, a serious condition that affects some 8 million Americans and can lead to a heart attack, stroke or diabetes.

For healthy adults aged 18-65, about 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity five days of the week can protect your heart and consequently help stave off lower-extremity diseases, according to the latest guidelines (PDF) issued jointly by the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine.

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