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80% of urban Indian working women are overweight

By RJ Whitehead , 08-Oct-2012

A new study has revealed that around 80% of urban Indian working women in the 25-45 age bracket are overweight as a result of sedentary lifestyles and changing food habits.

The report, Rising Workplace Obesity among Indian Women, covered around 2,000 working women across many of India’s leading commercial centres. 

Most of the women who were obese said this came from a lack of time to walk or exercise due to work pressure, and not having healthy food,” R. Shankar, president of Heal Foundation, which focuses on health education and awareness, told IANS.

"Obesity could also affect the mind, and cause symptoms like insomnia, depression and self-pity," Shankar added.

New middle-class hit hardest

Many women working in IT and biotechnology were found to gain weight as they could routinely spend up to 12 hours each day sitting at terminals in a controlled environment.

"Most of the knowledge workers in the survey admitted that their walks were confined to going to a restroom or fetching coffee, tea or snacks from the office pantry or cafeteria. Their work poses a hazard to their health," Shankar said.

Although many of the obese women expressed satisfaction over their careers and salaries, they were conscious of their appearance.

Housewives also at risk

Shankar added that office workers were not the only group at risk of obesity, and that housewives were finding that modern life was having a negative impact on their weight.

Married working women who are also homemakers are under even greater stress as they have no time to include exercise in their daily routine. Their own health is unfortunately not a priority for these women,” Shankar said.

The study also found that, unlike their men counterparts, women knowledge workers do not make use of the gym or other health facilities that many tech firms provide in their campuses. Again, this is because of a lack of time, pressures from work deadlines and the rush to return home to finish their domestic chores.

Contradictory results

However, this research appears at odds with a report by Nielsen from earlier this year showed that India’s urban middle-class is altering its dietary habits in the face of this obesity explosion from hectic work lives.

According to that survey, 77% or urban Indians are cutting down on fats to change their diet, while another 67% are cutting down on chocolates and sugar to achieve the same effect.

Around 62% said they were eating more natural and fresh foods, while another 51% said they were cutting down on the amount of processed foods they consume.

Mumbai-based nutritionalist Mrinalini M. at the time told FoodNavigator-Asia that the survey was contrary to conventional thinking among Indians that they would rather diet than exercise. “Compared to Western attitudes to exercise, Indians are far more laid-back in practice, though the survey results seem to point to the contrary.”

Given the more recent findings, perhaps he was correct in this assertion.

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