Can working out really help you maximize the success of every workday? According to our resident strength and fitness coach, Jesse Cooper, it absolutely can. And best of all, it can be a simple and unintrusive addition to your day.
With 19 years of experience as a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Coach, and Director of Fitness at The Golf Club at South River in Edgewater, Maryland, Jesse knows why exercise can revolutionize your workday and how to incorporate it easily into your routine.
Here are his expert insights and tips.
Exercise Can Literally Make You Better at Work
Fitness offers a wide array of benefits that can help you amplify the success of every workday.
Here are just a few of them.
Working Out Boosts Productivity
Research has shown that people who spend 30 to 60 minutes working out at lunch experience increased mental alertness and creative thinking.
In fact, the study suggests that:
- Those who partake in midday workouts experience an average performance boost of 15%
- 60% of people who work out during the day see improvements in their time management skills, mental performance, and ability to meet deadlines
Midday Workouts Can Help You Stay Sharp and Retain Information
Believe it or not, studies from Harvard have found that exercise helps to improve cognitive function and memory.
Working out helps to:
- Reduce insulin resistance
- Reduce inflammation
- Stimulate the release of growth factors–chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells
Exercise also helps improve sleep so you wake up feeling on point.
So, an early morning workout can help you start your day feeling sharp and focused. And a midday training session can help you retain information from earlier in the morning while reinvigorating you for the rest of the afternoon.
Exercise Energizes and De-Stresses You
Have you ever heard the term “runner’s high”?
It’s the feeling caused by the flood of endorphins–the chemical that gives you a feeling of euphoria–that your body releases during exercise.
And this feeling doesn’t stop when you’re done working out. Your increased heart rate and blood flow can boost your mood and energy levels for hours after you exercise.
According to another Harvard study, exercise has a unique capacity to both exhilarate and relax, provide stimulation and calm, and even counteract depression and dissipate stress.
Fitness Helps Desk-Related Strains and Soreness
You might not realize it, but sitting at your desk all day can have serious consequences on your health. Among other long-term ailments, sitting sedentarily at your desk all day causes:
- Weak legs and glutes which destabilize your body and make you more susceptible to injuries
- Shortened hip flexors and compression on the discs in your spine, both of which cause back pain
- Stiff shoulder and neck muscles
So, while getting up from your desk a few times a day is good, working out, activating your muscles, and getting a stretch in will help mitigate these challenges significantly.
A Simple Workout You Can Easily Incorporate Into Your Workday
If you like the idea of working fitness into your workday but just don’t know where to start, don’t worry. Jesse has compiled a list of simple exercises you can do almost anywhere.
To get started, you’ll want to do a quick warm-up. Jesse advises that your warm-up should involve getting your body moving rather than doing static stretching, which should be reserved for after your workout.
You can try things like:
- Knee Hugs: Lying with your knees bent, simply lift your knees towards your chest and hold.
- Butt Kicks: Kick your shins back behind you to touch your buttocks with the bottom of your foot, alternating legs repeatedly.
- Jumping Jacks: Stand upright with your legs together and arms at your sides. Then, jump, spread your legs to shoulder-width apart, and stretch your arms out and over your head before returning back to your starting position.
- Jogging in Place: This one is as simple as it sounds–just jog on the spot to get some blood flowing through your body.
- High Knees: Standing up straight, put your hands flat out in front of your belly button and then alternate raising your knees to touch your hands.
Once you’ve done your dynamic stretching, Jesse recommends moving into a circuit training session.
The idea of circuit training is to work through a series of exercises that you do consecutively with little to no break in between. Once you’ve gone through them all once, take a one or two-minute break and then do it again.
The fundamentals of a great circuit routine include:
- Squats: Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width, toes facing forward. Drive your hips back, bending at the knees and ankles, pressing your knees slightly open as you sit into a squatting position. Keep your heels and toes on the ground, chest up, and shoulders back, until your knees are bent to a 90-degree angle. Then, press into your heels and straighten your legs to return to a standing position.
- Push-Ups: Lay down on your chest with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Straighten your arms and legs so that your body forms a 45-degree angle with your upper body elevated and your toes on the floor. Then, lower yourself towards the floor by bending your elbows before pushing back up by straightening your arms out.
- Plank: Once again, you’ll want to lay on your stomach, as you did with the push-up. This time, you’ll want to prop yourself up on your elbows, shoulder-width apart. Raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from your head to heels. Be careful not to let your back sag or your butt stick up in the air, as both can keep you from effectively working your core. Make sure that your only two points of contact with the ground are your forearms and your toes. Hold this position for as long as you can.
- Forward Lunges: Start by standing up with your feet at hip-width. Rise up on to your toes and balance yourself, then take a long step forwards with one foot. As your front foot makes contact with the floor, bend at both knees to lower yourself down into the lunge position. At the bottom of your lunge, your knees should both be bent to approximately 90 degrees. From the bottom position, push up and backward using your front foot with enough energy so that you can step the front foot back to join side by side with the rear foot. As you return back to the start position try to stay up on your toes and balance without putting your heals down. Repeat this with your other leg as well.
- Burpees: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, weight on your heels, and your arms at your sides. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body into a squat. Place your hands on the floor directly in front of, and just inside your feet. Shift your weight onto your hands. Jump your feet back to softly land on the balls of your feet in a plank position. Jump your feet back so that they land just outside of your hands. Reach your arms overhead and explosively jump up into the air. Land and immediately lower back into a squat for your next rep.
How to Easily Incorporate Exercise Into Your Workday
One of the biggest challenges people find with incorporating a workout into their workday is simply finding the time and sticking to it.
But it doesn’t have to be difficult.
Jesse recommends simply incorporating it into your calendar as if it were a meeting. Don’t skip it and don’t book over it.
If you’re looking for a way to work out on a consistent schedule and to stay accountable, Jesse hosts 30-minute virtual workouts every Monday and Wednesday on the Golf Club at South River’s Facebook page.
His live workouts take place at 9:30 a.m. and are then uploaded to the Facebook page at 12:30 p.m. for anybody who wants to participate during their lunch hour.