Ten-Year Comparison of BMI, Body Fat, and Fitness in the Workplace

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BackgroundOverweight, obestity, and lack of fitness in America is reported to be increasing at an accelerated pace. This national trend has serious health and economic ramifications not only for the general population but also directly for industry. Obesity in the workplace has resulted in increased expenses to industry: directly through increased medical costs and indirectly through decreased productivity. The intent of this study is to define changes in fitness and body fat percentage in a working population in an isogeographical area over the past decade.MethodsData accumulated during a routine post-offer testing program were divided into two groups composed of new industry hires tested from 1990 to 1992 and from 2000 to 2002. Body fat was measured with a standard skinfold. The body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI) from year 1990 were compared to those from year 2000. Fitness was assessed through an individual's ability to perform a timed maximum number of sit-ups and squats.ResultsThere was no significant difference in the BMI between the year 1990 group and the year 2000 group (P = 0.132 for females and P = 0.110 for males). There was a significant increase in body fat percentage from the 1990 group to the 2000 group (P = 0.000 for females and P = 0.000 for males). A significant decrease in fitness was observed for both males and females during the 10-year interval of the study.ConclusionsPercent body fat appears to be a better indicator than BMI for utilization in industry for evaluation of obesity in the workplace. The differences in significance levels between BMI and percent body fat suggest that a decrease in leisure-time fitness activities could potentially contribute to the trend toward obesity. This study demonstrates that strength and/or fitness are important indicators that industry should monitor in order to improve the health and fitness of the workforce. Direct measurement of percent body fat and fitness indices are a more precise means than BMI for monitoring the workforce especially if employers are going to reward healthy behavior.

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