Overall, Americans are tipping the scales increasingly hard, regardless of their individual demographics. And Utah's no exception. But the problem is particularly difficult for men who, in larger numbers, battle the bulge.

Analysis of the Utah Department of Health's 2007 Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System found that 68 percent of male Utahns are either overweight or obese, compared to 51 percent of women. And for men who are 40 or older, the numbers rise to three out of four, compared to 58 percent of women in that age group, according to Lynda Blades, physical activity coordinator in the department's Bureau of Health Promotion.

The why is a little trickier, she said, and is likely to be the subject of future analysis. She said she and colleagues likely will look at differences in nutrition, dietary behavior and physical activity between the genders.

"A lot of men think of themselves as athletic because they were active in sports in early life. Then they got not as active, perhaps with work that requires them to sit a lot. They're more sedentary without being aware of it."

Past athletic prowess doesn't translate to lean muscle mass for couch potatoes.

Employers increasingly recognize the value of exercise and promoting it to keep their staffs fit. State health officials each year honor companies that promote fitness at the work site and that emphasize healthy environments.

They've found lots of ways to fold health into work, from companies that have exercise facilities available on company time to those that have cleared junk food from their vending machines in favor of more healthful offerings. Some have incentive programs that offer rewards such as health insurance rebates to employees who do certain physical activities.

Because women make many or most of the health-related decisions for their households, such as what to eat, a great deal of effort has targeted them. But Blades said health officials are "now looking for ways to reach men. We've probably neglected an important population."

The annual telephone survey questioned 5,079 Utah adults about their perceptions of their own health status and behavior. Weight-control strategies are online at health.utah.gov/obesity/docs/Blueprint.pdf.


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