Workplace Weight Loss Management

Workplace Weight Loss Management Interventions by Employers

Employers can maximise workplace weight loss management interventions by providing socially supportive environments and explicitly addressing sleep, a new study has found.

In a study of 452 predominantly obese and male long-distance truck drivers, who averaged about 60 driving hours a week, the US researchers found those experiencing elevated life and job stress and low social support had the poorest sleep patterns.

They say the study confirms the need for health interventions for truck drivers because almost 75 per cent of participants showed metabolic syndromes, 61 per cent showed signs of clinical sleep problems, and few ate enough fruit and vegetables or did enough exercise.

Only about half met “healthy criteria for dietary fat, sugary snack and drink avoidance, and sleep duration”.

Truck drivers work in sedentary conditions that “promote weight gain and associated health problems”, while shift work, scheduling and unfavourable sleeping conditions place them at risk of sleep problems, the researchers say.

The prevalence of obesity is doubled in truck drivers compared to the general population, which has serious safety implications for the “safety-sensitive” occupation, but weight loss and health promotion programs for commercial drivers are rare, and drivers have reduced access to social support, which buffers against stress and improve wellbeing, because they are isolated from family and peers for extended periods of time, they say.

According to the researchers, previous studies have shown that drivers sleep two-and-a-half hours less on a long-haul trip than at home, and sleep deficiency is associated with “obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes”.

They say the “metabolic and appetitive effects of insufficient sleep” will lead to less successful weight-loss outcomes without “concurrent sleep intervention”.

Recent research also showed supportive supervision and lower job strain is linked to healthy dietary behaviour, exercise and sleep. Accordingly, the researchers say weight-loss interventions can be maximised by installing “supportive workplace environments that control or reduce driver exposures to stress”.

While “important interactions between driver sleep, dietary, and exercise behaviours are probable”, the researchers say no peer-reviewed driver sleep studies have been undertaken to fully examine its potential relationships with diet and exercise.

To help tailor weight-loss interventions for long-distance truck drivers, “integrated studies of drivers’ behaviours that impact metabolism, energy balance, and body composition” are needed, they say.

“We also recommend strong cross-level interventions in the future that combine driver-level programs with simultaneous work environment-level changes that increase social support and remove or reduce workplace stressors.”