Written by: Nathaniel Christoforou (Exercise Science student, Deakin Unviersity)
Why you should dedicate the time to incorporate physical activity into your lifestyle
Many Australians hold demanding jobs and work longer than eight hours a day. Most professionals and executives certainly fall into this category and struggle to find time for anything besides work. There is a typical pattern which emerges amongst many professionals and executives who experience limited time away from work; they choose ‘rest’ as the preferred option during their ‘down time’. A typical pattern emerges in the lifestyle of many executives that work comes first, while health and wellbeing is often overlooked.
If this is you – we want to remind you that the health risks posed from physical inactivity are at levels comparable with smoking and alcohol use (Scherrer et al. 2010, p. 1).
You know that ‘exercise is good for you,’ but you may still experience a lack of motivation to undertake a regular exercise routine. There are many health benefits that arise from regular exercise – we will outline these health benefits throughout this article. If you believe you have heard all of these before and ARE STILL prioritising work, then consider the numerous benefits that exercise can have on your productivity, the quality of the work you produce, and your business.
The impact of exercise on your work productivity should be sufficient to motivate you to make a lifestyle change NOW!
The physical benefits of exercise
Many jobs involve sitting for extended periods throughout the day. Extended periods of sitting leads to a variety of postural problems. One common postural dysfunction arising from prolonged sitting is a condition called kyphosis. Kyphosis involves a curvature of the spine, resulting in hunching of the upper back, as well as joint and muscular pain. Taking regular breaks can assist with this, while the strengthening of muscles via exercise acts as the main determinant in correcting posture.
Exercise assists in lowering body fat, whilst increasing lean muscle tissue. Changes to your body fat have both physical and psychological benefits to your health. The chronic health benefits that reduce the risk of heart disease and cancers. Regular physical activity will help build your metabolism. Muscle cells require a lot of energy and therefore burn a lot of calories, which occurs even when you’re not exercising.
Physical inactivity has a similar effect on your body as the ageing process; in that as you age, muscle mass is reduced. Physical inactivity results in loss of lean muscle and a slowing down of your metabolism. Staying regularly active helps speed up your metabolism by reversing this process, meaning that you can continue to burn calories even when you’re not exercising!
The benefit of exercise on work productivity
Benefits of exercise that will enhance productivity in the workplace include a reduction in stress, improved alertness, and concentration; and enhanced cognitive function. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins – these are hormones secreted within your brain and nervous system that reduce stress via improving your ability to sleep. Endorphins also enhance positive mood states, which has an overall positive benefit to your mental health.
Exercise has been found to reduce the number of sick days taken per year, as the costs of employees with poor health can be measured in terms of productivity losses; sick leave costs Australian businesses $37 billion per year (Scherrer et al. 2010, p. 1).
As an executive, business owner or working professional – reducing your risk of sick days is also a pivotal reason for incorporating exercise into your lifestyle.
Incorporating exercise into your routine:
The national physical activity guidelines recommend you undertake 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, while also completing strength training on at least two days.
However if you are still struggling, there are ways you can begin exercising within your workplace:
- Take the stairs as opposed to the elevators
- Incorporate standing desks into the workplace
- Begin having walking meetings
- Implement exercise programs into the workplace.
- The Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) is a wellbeing program that was implemented into workplaces, in which employees wore pedometers, and were encouraged to meet a minimum daily step count of 10,000. Employees were able to log these hours online and compare themselves to other teams across Australia in a virtual race. Outcomes of this program included improved social relationships, awareness of physical activity levels, as well as reduced stress and enhanced productivity levels (Scherrer et al. 2010). Advocating for the implementation of a program like this is a great way to enhance physical activity adherence within the workplace – adding gamification and incentives is a great way to boost motivation! An example of this could involve the team who accumulate the most steps receiving a subsidised gym membership.
It is important to understand that no matter how busy you are with work, incorporating some form of physical activity on most days of the week can reap numerous health and productivity benefits. Hopefully this article has increased your awareness on some of these, and has motivated you to begin creating a healthy work-life balance.
Scherrer, P., Sheridan, L., Sibson, R., Ryan, M.M. and Henley, N., 2010. Employee engagement with a corporate physical activity program: the global corporate challenge. International Journal of Business Studies, 18(1), p.125.