Work On Your Wellness: Time to Exercise
Given how busy and stressful the workday is for most IT professionals, maintaining a regular fitness routine is crucial. But not everybody exercises regularly, the main reason being lack of time. Considering not all workouts take an hour or more, it's possible to fit in a few minutes of physical activity at least three to four days a week if we prioritise accordingly.
Many still consider physical exercise as beneficial only for the body. But numerous studies have shown that regular workouts are good for the mind. People who exercise daily or a few times a week over a length of time have been found to perform better at work and also feel satisfied and less stressed after work, which can benefit personal life as well.
In an article at hbr.org, Ron Friedman, Ph.D. recommends we consider physical activity as part of work because it leads to improved performance at work.
Exercise to Get Well
According to Friedman, exercise isn't an indulgence, a luxury that only those with ample time can afford. It is a necessity. It's something that should be considered a part of our work routines because several studies indicate that regular exercise is directly linked to improved work performance.
Exercise can sharpen concentration, lower stress, enhance memory, improve mood, contribute to better interpersonal relations at work, and increase productivity overall. Many employers even promote exercise by organizing programs and events to encourage fitness activities.
Make Time to Exercise
Most modern IT workers have to cope with long workdays, and many have the added time-suck of commuting to work, sometimes riding a train or sitting in a car for an hour or more. How does one fit an exercise routine into an overly long day?
Exercise doesn't have to mean spending hours at a gym or running. Even 10 or 20 minutes of daily physical activity — or physical activity three times a week if you can't work out every day — can improve fitness of body and mind.
A recent article in Corporate Wellness Magazine cites a study conducted by Martin Gibala, professor of kinesiology, which found that a 10-minute routine comprising one minute of high-intensity exercise combined with 9 minutes of low-intensity exercises performed for at least 3 times per week — a total time commitment of just 30 minutes — is adequate to maintain a normal healthy body.
Such a 30-minute weekly regimen can even be as good as spending an hour or more at the gym. When a low-intensity exercise can be something as simple, easy, and enjoyable as a walk, it's not difficult to make time for it. For those who work in a modern high-rise, taking the stairs can also provide regular low-intensity exercise.
Exercises You Have Time For
Don't tell yourself that you just don't have time for regular physical activity. These exercises can be performed at home or around your house or office.
Walking: Walking is the most accessible aerobic exercise. It's a low-intensity workout that can improve heart and lung health, lower cholesterol and high blood pressure levels, ease joint pain, strengthen muscles and bones, and help to manage diabetes.
Studies indicate that walking can also lift your mood and slow age-related memory decline. If your workplace is not far, then you might want to consider walking to work instead of driving or using public transportation. You could also take a walk during lunch.
Cycling: Cycling strengthens muscles and joints, improves cardiovascular fitness, benefits the brain, and improves bone density. Cycling to work — even just part of the way; many buses are equipped to transport both you and your bike — or after work can constitute part of one's exercise routine.
Back Bending: This is an easy and beneficial exercise, particularly for tech pros who often spend hours hunched in front of a personal computer. You can do this without leaving your desk. All you have to do is stand up as often as you can, keep your legs apart, bend backward, arms behind your back and rest your palms on your waist. Hold this position for at least a minute.
This is good for your spine and can help alleviate back pain. It can also improve posture.
Hatha Yoga: A 20-minute Hatha yoga session a few days a week can not only improve physical fitness and flexibility, it can calm the mind to some extent. It's important to learn how to perform asanas correctly, and there is no dearth of Hatha yoga classes available.
It is important to identify a reputable provider, one that employs well-trained, experienced, and responsible instructors. YouTube tutorials are also an option. Once you've learned each asana well, you can practice your routine at home.
Eye exercises: If your job entails spending hours in front of a computer screen, you're probably no stranger to eye strain. To relax our eyes and protect eye sight, we need to look away from our screens every 20 minutes or thereabouts and look at any object around 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Known as the 20-20-20 rule, this was designed by Jeffrey Anshel, a Californian optometrist.
Blinking often is beneficial; it helps to keep your eyes moist. You can also move your eyes up and down for a few minutes, and then sideways for another few minutes without moving your head. These exercises are easy and can be done anywhere.
Plank: Plank not only burns calories, it strengthens core muscles, relieves back pain, and can improve posture. It's an exercise most people can do once they know how. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials available for those who want to learn.
If you have experience with strength-based workouts or are looking to learn, there are squats, push-ups, and kettle-bell swings, to name a few. These routines can increase heart rate as well as strengthen muscles.
Make Exercise Habitual (And Fun!)
One of the most effective ways of ensuring you get into the habit of exercising is to find an exercise or exercises that appeal to you. Then your daily or thrice-weekly workouts become something to look forward to instead of a chore that you force yourself to complete.
Given the wide range of fairly accessible physical activities available — vigorous dancing, trampoline jumping, and jumping rope are all exercises that you can perform in the garden for a few minutes at a time — it's not hard to identify one (or a few) that are fun to do. And if you enjoy exercising, then you're likely to benefit more than if you were just pushing yourself through a boring regimen.
Instead of just going to the gym or performing some other workout because exercise is the thing to do, and many at work are practicing some activity or other, it's much more effective to start a physical routine because you know it's good for you. You should be driven by expectations of the positive effects of exercising — not the fact that others are into it.
When you know you're practicing something because you're going to benefit from it, you're more likely to keep at it. For those who are more socially inclined and prefer to do things with others, taking up a sport like tennis, or volleyball, or any other suitable game might be a good option.
While selecting the right exercise routine, it's important to identify moves that fit your form and are safe for you to perform regularly. You might want to consult your doctor if you have underlying medical conditions.