So you believe you don’t have the time to work out? Who has a spare hour or two a few times a week. Life is hectic, there’s the pressure of trying to build and excel in your career while still making time for friends and family. Once you start adding kids to the mix, time can get tight. Sometimes you want to spend the precious free time you have slumped on the couch, binge-watching Netflix and binge-eating Doritos (we’re Sweet Chilli Pepper people ourselves). We get it, but let’s say you just take part of that couch time and try to do something more with it? Keep reading to find out why fitting in fitness doesn’t have to be a schlep or take over your life. We’re also going to show you why it’s so hella important to get yourself moving – in whichever way works for you, and exactly how you can go about doing it.
Why should I start a fitness program?
At first it could seem a bit counter-intuitive that when you exercise your body releases cortisol – the same hormone that rises when we experience stress. So how then, does exercise actually reduce stress? The answer is that it does this in several ways.
For most healthy people, the cortisol release returns to normal very soon after exercise and then the magic happens. Our bodies flood with dopamine and serotonin (the feel good hormones) and it triggers a reward response, more about this in a second. According to an article by Huff Post Healthy Living, exercise also counters the atrophying effects stress has on the brain by releasing neurohormones like norepinephrine that improve cognitive function and boost your mood. So essentially, when you workout, you are undoing a lot of the damage caused by the stress of a hard day at the office.
You enter your class, yoga. Because that makes you zen right? The breathing and stretching and searching for your higher self leads to a totally relaxed… everything. It’s a quiet safe space and you have managed to twist your body into a happy baby pose. and whoops!. You farted. Well, it was bound to happen sometime. You furtively look around to see if anyone noticed. They did. Guess what. it happens to everyone. The link between yoga and farting is scientifically proven! Yoga is all about twisting your body into positions it had no idea it could be twisted into. This includes those internal organs where farts originate.
Increases energy and boosts productivity
How does exerting energy give you more energy? Our bodies are magic like that. One way is that regular exercise, like a gym program, improves sleep quality and leaves you feeling more rested and alert. Another, as Pete McCall, exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise tells acefitness.org, exercise increases “blood flow carrying oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue improving their ability to produce more energy”. So with regular exercise, our bodies become more efficient at converting fuel to energy, helping sustain us through a busy day.
Makes you feel better about yourself
We’ve touched on how regular exercise, like a gym program or team sports, triggers the release of the feel good hormones and engages the brain’s reward system. On a physiological level your brain is rewarding your body for a certain action. On a psychological level, you know you’ve just done something good for yourself, giving you a sense of achievement and a sense of investment in your own health and wellbeing. Looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs below, we can see you’re attending to at least two of the basic human needs, according to modern psychology.
Keeps you from getting sick
Exercise can boost your immune system and help prevent diseases, even reducing the number of colds and flu contracted per year. According to fitday.com, doctors have found that regular exercise boosts the cells in your body whose job it is to attack germs and bacteria. They have found that in sedentary individuals, these cells seem to function more slowly that in those who partake in some form of regular exercise. Therefore if you follow a regular workout plan, your body is better equipped to fight of illness, by attacking bacteria quickly, often before it has a chance to make you sick.
By now most of us have heard that sitting at your desk for several hours a day is bad, real bad. It can cause leg issues, slows brain function, stiffens your spine, weakens your bones and muscles, weakens your heart and even increases the risk of certain cancers. If you want to read more, check out this article on businessinsider.com. It’s scary stuff and seems unavoidable for many of us. Thankfully, there are lots of little ways you can increase the amount of movement you fit into your day and incrementally chip away at the dangers of being sedentary for much of the day.
- Take the stairs – skip the elevator and avoiding listening to Linda from finance complain about her cats gallstones.
- Set a timer – use your phone or wearable tech and set an hourly timer to get up from your desk and go to the furthest possible water cooler or bathroom. You’ll get in extra steps and stay hydrated.
- Get some face time – instead of sending that follow-up email or dialing an extension, go over to Frikkie and ask then about that deadline face to face. You’ll slowly declutter your inbox and get your legs moving.
- Instead of the office instant, go get your caffeine fix at a coffee shop a few blocks away and use the walk to mentally prep for your next meeting.
A dry quickie during lunch
If your office is in a central business district, you most likely have a few great options for things to do during your lunch hour, from stylish coffee shops to the old cheeky happy hour. You should also have a few health and fitness spots with great gyms in Sandton, Rosebank, Cape Town CBD and the like. If your idea of a lunchtime workout means arriving back to work late and showered or on time and… well… somewhat malodorous, think again.
There are tons of great gym workouts that will give you the benefits of a good exercise session without necessarily drenching you in sweat. Why not try a pilates or yoga class? We know, we know, it seems a bit vegan-hemp-hug a tree, but there is a ton to be benefitted from a yoga class or pilates class, from strengthening your core, relieving stress and improving flexibility and balance. Oh, and don’t think group exercise if just for the ladies, we’ve made a compelling case for the boys here. You could also check out the gym’s functional training area, or a functional training class (If the gym’s as amazing as Viva Gym and offer these). These movements are designed to mirror those you do in everyday life and help you establish muscle memory for the correct way to do them.
Working out first thing in the morning can take some getting used to, but it’s all about creating the habit and sticking to it (which only takes 21 days by the way). Instead of spending an hour or more in traffic, wake up and get into the city a bit earlier to spend 40 minutes at the gym. Often people complain, “There are no affordable gyms near me”, but there probably is a gym near where they work. Building the a fitness program into your daily commute can help solve the problem of proximity to a good gym. It could also help with the road rage that comes from spending hours in a little metal box, crawling along at 10km an hour, watching some guy in the next car pick his nose.
Morning workouts at the gym are a safer alternative to pounding the pavement in the early morning, especially in the winter months when the roads are dark and wet and visibility isn’t great. Mornings also yield a ton of different benefits, like testosterone levels being at their highest in the early morning, which is great for weight lifting and building muscle. According to bodybuilding.com, an early exercise session is a great way to prep for a busy day at the office as you’re more alert after your workout. So this doesn’t necessarily have to be you every morning…
Use the weekend for your weak end
Ok so this one isn’t exactly during your workday, but combining the incremental increase in movement in point one with a couple of good sessions over the weekend will do a lot to improve your overall fitness. Most of us do our overindulging over the weekend and according to sleekgeek.co.za, it’s pretty much human nature, but there are things we can do to mitigate the damage it does to an otherwise healthy lifestyle. One of these is to fit in a gym session or two, as you’re statistically less likely to overindulge after a good workout (you can thank those magic happy hormones again).
Include your family
Feeling a bit guilty a bit guilty about taking the time away from the family? Bring them along! According to psychologytoday.com, couples who workout together see increased levels of intimacy as they work towards a common goal. Take the kids for a walk to the park or bring them along to the gym.Creating a culture of fitness within your family, gives your kids a health and fitness foundation that sets up for a healthier lifestyle as they grow into adulthood.
Put the screens away
Use your workout time as vital “downtime”. We’re all aware of the importance of “unplugging” and having time away from screens, When you consider the time we spent at our computers, on our phones and tablets and watching TV, the percentage of our day spent looking at a screen is staggering. Instead of running on the treadmill in front of a television, or catching up on a show while you’re on the stationary bike, use the time as a meditation of sorts. Think about the day you’ve had or the day ahead, what did you enjoy? What are you looking forward to? What do you want to achieve tomorrow? Using your workout for introspection can help improve your sleep quality as you’re not lying awake replaying your day while you’re trying to fall asleep. Similarly, forbess.com makes a case for creating dedicated worrying pockets in your day and using that as a practice to reduce stress and anxiety. Your 20 minutes on the treadmill could be your worry pocket, and do a lot to reduce overall stress.
Make the workout work for you
So we’ve shown how regular exercise can reduce stress, increase productivity and boost your self esteem and your immune system. There are also tons of different ways to incorporate fitness into an already tight schedule, but what if you want to optimise your time? If you’re keen to get the absolute most bang for your buck in terms of time spent and fitness yield, we highly recommend our class finder tool. It looks at your individual fitness level and fitness goal and gives you a tailored list of the best possible group training classes for you. Studies have shown there is as much as a 24.8 percent increase in physical performance in group exercise participants compared to individual fitness participants. So if you really want to make that 30 – 60 minutes count, check out our class finder here.