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Work Some Fitness Into Your Workday

With longer days and warmer temps upon us, it’s the time when many individuals’ thoughts turn to getting in shape. This is a great time to make the commitment since the weather is nice and it’s mentally easier to becoming active and adhere to a program. Starting an easy, inexpensive exercise program is an excellent way to combat the generally unhealthy lifestyle that Americans have become notorious for.

It’s springtime in Philly and the streets seem to get more crowded each day with the fair-weather exercisers. With longer days and warmer temps upon us, it’s the time when many individuals’ thoughts turn to getting in shape.  This is a great time to make the commitment since the weather is nice and it’s mentally easier to becoming active and adhere to a program.  Starting an easy, inexpensive exercise program is an excellent way to combat the generally unhealthy lifestyle that Americans have become notorious for.

In America today a majority of the workforce lives a sedentary lifestyle.  We sleep in comfy beds, wake up to sit on a sofa while watching our favorite morning show, ride in a car or on a train to the office, sit in front of a computer, then travel back to our homes where we sit and watch TV until it’s time to get back in our comfy beds.  This routine is truly killing us.

Sitting or remaining inactive for most of the day with little or no exercise characterizes our sedentary lifestyle. This lack of exercise can cause shrinking and weakening of the muscles and increases our likelihood of injury. The accompanying reduction in physical fitness is generally associated with a weakening of the immune system. Yet, despite the many known benefits of exercise, most adults continue to lead a relatively sedentary lifestyle and therefore never achieve the health benefits of exercise.

According to various surveys and studies, 60-70% of the U.S. adult population is overweight, obese, or extremely obese. A lack of physical activity is one of the leading causes of preventable death worldwide and is a factor in many physical and mental ailments.

A sedentary lifestyle coupled with decreased metabolic rate factors heavily into the root of our unhealthy culture and contributes to or is a risk factor for:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bad attitude (Considered a real problem at many workplaces)
  • Temperament
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Increased mortality
  • Diabetes
  • Colon cancer
  • High blood pressure/Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Lipid disorders
  • Kidney Stones
  • Liver disease
  • Stroke
  • Sleep apnea
  • Gallbladder disease

Most of us have sedentary jobs. Work takes up a significant part of the day. What can we do to increase physical activity during the workday?  It doesn’t require a large commitment to get started.  What’s important is that you make a commitment to improve your life.  Start small and gradually increase your periods of exercise.  Make it a habit, part of your daily routine. Plan and follow a schedule – exercise, meals, sleep.

A recent New York Times article stated, “… a sedentary person’s risk of dying prematurely from any cause plummeted by nearly 20 percent if he or she began brisk walking (or the equivalent) for 30 minutes five times a week.” Do you need a better reason to begin an exercise regimen?

According to the Mayo Clinic, below are seven specific ways exercise can improve your life:

  1. Exercise improves your mood.
  2. Exercise combats chronic diseases.
  3. Exercise helps you manage your weight.
  4. Exercise boosts your energy level.
  5. Exercise promotes better sleep.
  6. Exercise can put the spark back into your sex life.
  7. Exercise can simply be fun.

In addition to these I would like add the following benefits that companies can expect from healthier employees:

  1. Reduced medical expenses
  2. Less missed time due to illness
  3. More productivity from a more alert and happier workforce
  4. Better ideas and increased employee input
  5. Better employee retention by companies that encourage healthy lifestyles
  6. Improved company reputation
  7. Increased employee interaction and synergy

We know the dangers of living a sedentary lifestyle.  We know the advantages of regular exercise.  How can we work exercise into our already hectic lives?  It starts with making exercise a priority. Treat excercise like a job. Put it on the calendar. Schedule physical activity as you would any other appointment during the day. Don’t change your exercise plans for every interruption that comes along. Plan, schedule, adhere. Treat it as something that simply MUST. GET. DONE.

Be creative in how you incorporate exercise into you daily life.  Find the things that work for you and make them habit.  Habit and routine will ease your transition from a sedentary desk jockey to an active office jock.

Ways to increase activity and introduce exercise:

  • Stand while talking on the telephone
  • Stand up often to do any routine task
  • Make the switch to a standing desk
  • Take any opportunity to walk to your coworker rather than call or email
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or get off a few floors early and take the stairs the rest of the way
  • Take it on the road. If you travel for work, plan ahead. Bring your jump-rope or choose a hotel that has fitness facilities. Learn calisthenics and do them in your hotel room. If you’re stuck in an airport waiting for a plane, grab your bags and take a walk.
  • Participate in or start a recreation league at your company (softball, bowling, ski club)
  • Form a sports team to raise money for charity events
  • Start a lunchtime walking group. The regular routine and the support of your co-workers may help you stick with the program.
  • Join a fitness center near your job. Work out before or after work to avoid rush-hour traffic, or drop by for a noon workout
  • Join a fitness class – Yoga is an excellent choice for any fitness level
  • Hire a personal trainer – the investment will promote adherance
  • Walk around your building, business park, or city for a break during the workday or during lunch
  • Take fitness breaks. Rather than hanging out having coffee or a snack, take a short walk
  • If you’re scheduling a meeting with another coworker, take it on the road and hold the meeting while you walk
  • Active travel – choose a mode of transportation that is human powered.  Buy a bike and ride to work.  Buy some walking shoes and walk to work.
  • Park far away from work and walk
  • Get off the train earlier and walk farther
  • Brainstorm project ideas with a co-worker while taking a walk
  • Get off the bus a few blocks early and walk the rest of the way to work or home
  • Walk to a location far away to get your lunch
  • Start and end your day by taking your dog for a long walk or put the kid in a stroller and take a long stroll

In the end it’s all about being more active. So get moving! Life has changed over the years in America.  Gone are the days of hunters and gatherers, gone are the days of working in the fields.  We now make a living while doing very little physical activity.  While the physicality of life has changed, it’s our health that suffers.  By making a serious effort and some sensible adjustments to our lives we can create a more active lifestyle for ourselves and our coworkers. In doing so we can elevate our health and extend our lives.

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