Exercise…you either love it or loathe it. (Or you hate it and do it anyway…)
But despite your feelings on the matter, few—if any—people would dispute the tremendous benefits of regular physical activity. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find any real downside to working out. Well, take that back. If there is one drawback that seems to be expressed by busy parents, career people and students alike, it’s this: the inability to find time to fit exercise into the day.
Yes, squeezing an hour—even half an hour—of exercise into an already jam-packed schedule can present quite a challenge. But, according to emerging research, “I don’t have the time”should no longer be an acceptable excuse if you want to be as healthy—and productive—as possible. Why?
Because research shows that regular physical activity enhances the ability to integrate your personal and professional lives. In other words, fitting exercise into your routine can help you achieve significantly better work-life balance.
This idea certainly seems counter intuitive. How can adding yet another item to an already overflowing to-do list actually create better balance?
Lead researcher Dr. Russell Clayton collected data from 476 working adults who answered various survey questions on exercise behavior (such as how often they exercised), as well as how they handled conflicts between work and family obligations.
Dr. Clayton and his team discovered that exercise allows people to physically, mentally and emotionally detach from work and other responsibilities, therefore alleviating stress and helping them feel more confident and empowered.
According to Dr. Clayton, even one exercise session can help you experience a sense of mastery. Meeting exercise goals—like running two km, for instance—produces a prolonged “can-do” attitude that spans across multiple roles throughout the day, from work and school to parenting and even your marriage.
He calls this “self-efficacy,” the “sense that one is capable of taking things on and getting them done.” He explains that people with high self-efficacy see difficult situations as challenges that can be conquered, rather than problems that can bring them down.
Exercise Doesn’t Have to Be Fancy
Many people think that in order to get a good or worthwhile workout, you need to go to a gym. If you prefer this approach to physical fitness, then by all means continue doing it. But you don’t necessarily need fancy equipment to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. A good fitness routine can be as simple as taking a 30-minute walk or jog in your neighborhood, or putting in a workout DVD and completing it in your living room. Simply doing squats, push-ups, sit-ups or wall sits in your own home counts as a workout too.
Also think about what time of day works best for your schedule. Some people like to wake up before dawn (while the rest of the family sleeps) to exercise. Others like to break up their day with a lunchtime workout session. Still others prefer to unwind in the evening and work out their stress in the gym or weight room. Whatever your inclination, stick to it—and the rewards, as this research shows, will cross over every single part of your life.