...walk a mile

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Labor Day Reflection
Written by September 7, 2009

Gina Cortese-Shipley, MS

Associate Director of Education
The Cooper Institute

burning calories. walking workstation
labor day
Labor Day Reflection

Today is Labor Day.  According to U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day “is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

While the vast majority of adults “labor” at some type of job, I thought it would be interesting find out which jobs are the most laborious. That is, burn a lot of calories.  Here they are:  

Job Task

Calories burned per hour*



Scuba diving (e.g., Navy SEAL)


Removing slag at a steel mill


Carrying bricks


Farming, baling hay


Forestry, sawing wood


Coal mining


Grooming animals


Operating a punch press


Picking oranges


Things are very different today compared to 1894 when the legislation was passed that established Labor Day.  Back then there were many more farmers, miners, and factory workers.  Now most adults work in service jobs that require little physical effort.  In fact, at 125 calories per hour, an office worker burns one-eighth the calories of a firefighter.  Maybe that’s one reason why we have an epidemic of overweight and obesity in the U.S.

So perhaps we should put more (physical) labor back onto our work day.  Here are several ideas:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Have one-on-one meetings on foot.
  • Use a walking workstation.  See our earlier blog on this topic. 
  • Walk or bike to work.  As we blogged earlier, you’ll be healthier.

What are your ideas for making every day at work a calorie-burning “labor” day? 

* Based on a reference person who weighs 175 pounds.  If you weigh less than this, you would burn slightly fewer calories and if you weigh more, you’d burn more.

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