Physical exercise is essential for your physical and mental well-being. Keeping active and eating healthily are two habits that should be taken very seriously if we want to stay on top form. However, our often-sedentary lifestyles can make it difficult to keep active and can be a source of stress, fatigue, or even hormonal imbalances. Let’s take a look at how we can incorporate physical activity into our everyday lives.
The importance of sport for our bodies is irrefutable. Studies prove that increasing levels of physical fitness can have positive knock-on effects on our cognitive ability, such as our memory or our problem-solving abilities, as well as triggering beneficial structural changes in the brain (Scientific Reports, 2019).
Physical and psychological well-being
As well as being a powerful ally for your physical health, exercise is just as instrumental in good mental health. By effectively combating stress and anxiety, sport is an excellent remedy against depression. It also boosts self-confidence and improves quality of sleep. How? Physical activity initiates the secretion of hormones such as endorphins, more commonly known as ‘feel-good’ hormones, or that feeling of psychological well-being that washes over you post-workout.
Also, regular physical activity provides more oxygen to the brain. This oxygenation allows for a substantial improvement of our intellectual performance. Therefore, sport has a positive effect on our long-term memory, our reasoning and critical thinking abilities, as well as on our concentration levels, all key factors of productivity. Moreover, regular physical activity markedly reduces the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
It is in this light that exercise contributes to our general well-being and, by implication, to our well-being at work.
Enjoyment: the key to consistency
Besides physical goals, the most important thing to aim for when exercising healthily is finding a sense of enjoyment. Ideally, you should exercise for 30 minutes daily to feel a tangible effect on your well-being. And when we say exercise, this can mean anything from getting some fresh air and going for a walk, to opting for the stairs instead of the lift, to getting off one or two stops early on the tube or on the bus and doing the rest of the journey on foot. It is entirely possible to fit these 30 minutes into your everyday routine.
Of course, it would be even more effective to include one or two longer and more intensive work-out sessions into your routine each week. Maintaining consistency should be at the forefront. And in order to be consistent, it is essential that you get some pleasure out of your workout, to ensure that you do not lose interest. Be sure then to vary your activities, depending on the time of year, for example.
Shake things up a bit, including in the workplace
The spectrum of sporting activities which can induce a temporary effect of relaxation on the body is extremely wide. First of all, this includes water sports such as swimming or aquabiking. Next, there are activities which entail focused concentration and relaxation such as yoga, stretching and Pilates. Endurance sports too, like running and cycling, can produce similar effects on the body. But we can also mention recreational sports, like football, rugby, handball, and basketball, which provide the opportunity to have fun as part of a group – an added benefit.
However, the reality for many workers is having to sit behind a desk for an average of 8 hours a day. In this case, workers can integrate some good habits into their work life which are vital to their health and well-being. Simply walking for 2 minutes every 30 minutes is enough to lower insulin levels, compared to people who are stationary all throughout the day. So, get moving and walk around as much as you can! For example, instead of sending an email to a co-worker who is at the other end of your office, get up and see them in person; take the stairs when you come in and out of the office. Also, remember that there is a whole host of exercises that you can do without even leaving your workspace.
All in moderation
It is nonetheless crucial that you listen to your body, so that your sporting activities remain nothing but beneficial. Up the intensity of your sessions bit by bit. It is far better to exercise for 30 minutes every day than to cram in a 4-hour-long session once a month. This would in fact be counterproductive and you would also risk injury. It should also be added that any excessive behaviour can be harmful, and exercise is no exception. Too much physical activity can lead to fatigue, sleep disturbance and muscular pain. It’s all a matter of striking the right balance, that’s the key here. So, get a move on, because breaking a sweat will be well worth it, in the end.