Making time for fitness can improve health, productivity

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Published: October 23,2006

Too busy to exercise? That excuse won’t cut it with Joey Hans Edmonson, health and fitness coordinator at the Ocean Springs YMCA.

“No time to exercise?” Edmonson asks. “That isn’t an excuse. That is a cop out.
“You don’t have time not to come to the gym. Exercise actually gives you energy. If you are sluggish or tired, you don’t have the energy to finish work. The only way you are going to get energy is to exercise, eat healthy and drink plenty of water.”

The YMCA has developed 15- to 30-minute “express workouts” for business people and others on the go. The short routines target specific muscles groups. And with only that much time at stake, it is hard to use that excuse, “I don’t have enough time.”

“We used to think we had to get in the gym, sweat and work for an hour or two,” says Edmonson, who has a master’s degree in exercise physiology. “But now we have realized getting people into the gym is the most important thing. You don’t have to work up a tremendous sweat to get some exercise. If you can work out for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, it all adds up to the total workout for the day. Every extra step you take counts towards better health and burning calories.”

The Y’s express workouts are “no sweat.” By that, Edmonson means you don’t have to sweat so bad that you have to change clothes. You can come by in work clothes, do a light workout, and be on your way.

The gym isn’t convenient to the office? Then just walk for 15 to 30 minutes. Again, you don’t have to work up a sweat.
“Walking is an effective way to burn calories to prevent those two extra pounds per year people tend to gain,” Edmonson said. “After you are 25 years old, your metabolism slows down and you either have to eat less food or burn more calories to maintain your body weight.”

Exercise should be considered an investment, just like money in the bank. By investing in fitness now, you gain an improved quality of life and increase your longevity.

“Unless you exercise, you won’t have much quality of life as you age,” she said. “Without exercise and eating healthy, you are going to lose your health. One day you won’t be able to do the things you want to do. You won’t be able to do simple tasks like picking up a grandchild or carrying in groceries from the car. And there goes your independence.

“Without exercise, you can’t focus as well on work. Kids can’t focus at school. It is a proven fact that office productivity is lower when someone is unhealthy. And exercise is not just for the physical, but the mental, as well. It is a great stress reliever. Instead of going to a bar at the end of the day for a cocktail, get on the treadmill at the gym and relieve stress.”

One additional benefit is helping you sleep. A recent study showed that 75% of adult American experience insomnia occasionally. Exercise helps you relax, calm down and sleep at night.

“That is a real positive,” Edmonson said. “We all need our rest.”

Why do so many people start and then fail to follow through on an exercise program? Many make unrealistic goals. Edmonson recommends starting slow and working at your own pace. Even if you start at only five minutes three times a week, if you add an additional five minutes each week, by six weeks you are up to 30 minutes of aerobic activity.

“Don’t think you have to come every day,” she said. “Don’t think you have to come for two hours. Start out slow. You might not see immediate gratification or loss of weight the first few weeks. But the first time you leave the gym you are going to feel better about yourself. That is your immediate gratification.”

Make an appointment — with yourself

Clint Barr, fitness director of The Club on Lake Harbor, Ridgeland, recommends planning ahead as the best way to assure a regular fitness program. Schedule an appointment at the gym in your calendar, if that is what it takes. Set aside 30 to 60 minutes several times a week.

“Doing that helps you stick to an exercise routine and become more physically active on a regular basis,” Barr said. “It is just like getting up to go to work. You get up and do the same thing each day. Work exercise into your routine, and stick with it. It takes 30 days to break an old habit, and 30 days to make a new habit.”

For some people, the treadmill is just too boring (although bringing along something to read can make the time pass quickly). Those might find it more fun to participate in a sport.

“Find something that forces you to be physically active that you enjoy whether playing basketball or roller skating,” Barr said. “Find something that interests you and keeps you enjoying it. With sports, your competitive juices get flowing. That is why spinning (stationary bike riding) is so successful. There are some competitive people who have their buddy next to them while spinning. They want to keep up with their buddy. The competitive nature can make it more fun.”
Another suggestion is finding a sporting event you want to train for such as a 5K run or walk. “A lot of people use that, myself included, as a motivation tool,” he said.

It can also help to use a personal trainer. That is a way to establish accountability. You know if you have an appointment with your trainer, you still have to pay for the session even if you don’t turn up.

“Personal training is a tool to utilize to stay accountable,” Barr said. “Not only that, but a fitness expert is going to be able guide your progress so you aren’t hurting or sore all the time. Training will help you progress through building strength and endurance it in a natural way.”

A final tip is that exercise can be the “tipping point” that leads to other good behavior.

“Healthy habits breed other healthy habits,” Barr said. “Healthy habits play off each other.”

While both the gym and outdoor recreational activities are great, it is also important to get some exercise at the office, especially if you sit in front of a computer all day.

Pete Berry, fitness trainer at Bear’s Fitness Center in Clarksdale, recommends putting an alarm on your computer set for every 30 minutes to an hour to remind you to take a break.

“Walk a little bit,” Berry said. “Keep from being sedentary all day. Work in small increments of fitness all day. Depending on the atmosphere you are in, you can do some things at your desk. Stand up and do deep knee bends or wide stance squats. Stretch out your lower back. Get a chair workout at the desk to stretch your calves and thighs. One of the reasons people have lower back problems is their hamstrings are not very flexible.”

To avoid knots in the neck that can lead to “computer neck” or even migraine headaches, do exercises like shoulder shrugs. Bring your shoulders to your ears, and rotate them.

If you have to stay at the computer all day, it might be possible to at least stand up to work for a change of pace.
Being at a computer all day is not just hard on the body, but on the eyes.

“If you are at a computer eight hours, and all you are looking at is two feet in front of you, that is not good for vision,” he said. “Look out the window and see something a little farther away. You need somewhere to focus your eyesight farther off.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

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