Professional Education and Career Blog

The Importance of Physical Fitness to Your Career

healthThe idea that being fit is important to health isn’t a newsflash, but too many people don’t make the correlation that it’s important to their career as well. High performers will devote endless hours to improving their work skills and getting more work accomplished, but many don’t realize how much more productive they would be with a healthy lifestyle.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

For many people, the primary motivation to exercise is keeping their weight down, but there are many more benefits than that. According to a 2010 study from the University of California, San Francisco, researchers found that women who exercised vigorously for an average of 45 minutes had cells that showed fewer signs of aging compared to women who were stressed and inactive. It appears that exercise may work on a cellular level to rejuvenate our bodies. Another study showed that exercise can help protect the brain against cognitive decline that beings at age 45, and may even help protected against Alzheimer’s disease.

It also appears that exercise can have a significant effect on memory and learning new things. According to a study out of the University of Pittsburgh, regular physical activity increased the production of cells in the hippocampus responsible for learning and memory, reversing age-related loss in brain volume by 1 to 2 years during the study.

Stress Reduction and Lessening Anxiety

The latest research shows that moderate exercise three times a week can reduce symptoms of depression, even comparable to antidepressant medications. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults and are the most common psychiatric illnesses in the United States. Psychologists studying exercise found that significant improvements from even short walks.

There are even studies showing that aerobic exercise can lessen or even eliminate chronic insomnia. The researchers found that exercise produced significant improvements in mood, sleep patterns, and quality of life.

How to Get Started

First, don’t defeat yourself before you even get started. You don’t have to run marathons to see significant improvements, and you certainly don’t have to join a gym. Start with a 15-20 minute walk, or even less. Don’t underestimate walking! Even a short walk can give you some clear benefits, and work your way up from there. A one-hour brisk walk can burn 300-400 calories.

runnerHere are some other tips:

  • Set small daily goals and aim for consistency. Remember that it’s better to do anything at all than just skip it. If all you can do is a five minute walk to the corner, do that. It will help get you in the habit.
  • Chances are, many people in your circle of friends are thinking the same thing as you about increasing your exercise. See if you can find an exercise buddy to help keep you both on track.
  • One great way to make longer sessions of exercise easier is to distract yourself. While walking, listen to audiobooks, lectures or other stimulating material. If you’re focused on the listening, you will be less focused on how your body is feeling. And if you pick an audiobook of a book that you were dying to read, you might find yourself looking forward to your exercise time, just so you can hear more of the story!
  • If you decide to join a gym, take it slow and easy. There is a reason that people join a gym, go a few times, and then never go again. Exercise is about getting into long-term habits, not achieving an instant transformation. Do light amounts of weight. The whole idea of “no pain, no gain” is probably the worse advice ever given for getting in shape. Don’t be afraid to talk to the gym instructors about the proper way to do the various exercises so you can avoid injuries.
  • Time is often a factor in causing people to get off the exercise track. Find places to add more activity during your day. It doesn’t have to be done all at once! Do 15 minutes when you get up in the morning, and 15 minutes at lunch. If you go over your day, chances are you will find periods of time that you can replace with exercise rather than “zoning out” with something else.

Exercise is a critical part of having a healthy life. With a little effort, you can make a big difference in your long-term happiness.