FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- U.S. workplaces may need to consider innovative methods to prevent fatigue from developing in employees who are obese. Based on results from a new study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH), workers who are obese may have significantly shorter endurance times when performing workplace tasks, compared with their non-obese counterparts.
The study, conducted at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., examined the endurance of 32 individuals in four categories (non-obese young, obese young, non-obese older, and obese older) who completed three distinct tasks that involved a range of upper extremity demands -- hand grip, intermittent shoulder elevation, and a simulated assembly operation. Each task involved periods of work and rest, and included pacing demands similar to those experienced by workers in manufacturing settings.
"Our findings indicated that on average, approximately 40 percent shorter endurance times were found in the obese group, with the largest differences in the hand grip and simulated assembly tasks. During those tasks, individuals in the obese group also exhibited greater declines in task performance, though this difference was only evident among females," said Lora A. Cavuoto, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of industrial and systems engineering at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, in Buffalo, New York.
In addition to examining how obesity affected physical demands and capacity, Cavuoto and her colleagues looked at the interactive effect of obesity and age on endurance times.
"Previous studies have indicated that both age and obesity lead to decreased mobility, particularly when it comes to walking and performing lower extremity tasks. However, we found no evidence of an interactive effect of obesity and age on endurance times, which is contrary to previous findings," said Maury A. Nussbaum, PhD, a professor in the department of
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American Industrial Hygiene Association