Exercise throughout Your Day
Sometimes, we give up on exercise before we even begin. We are overwhelmed by the idea of driving to the gym or committing to an hour-long workout. We hit the snooze button in the morning or let the auto-play on Netflix or Hulu move us on to the next episode.
To increase your fitness, shift your perspective from big all-in workouts to simple, good-enough strategies. Research consistently indicates that brief bouts of exercise can yield significant health effects.
For instance, the American Diabetes Association recommends 3 or more minutes of light activity every 30 minutes during sedentary activities . These regular intervals of brief activity improve how your body manages your blood glucose levels, and may be particularly important for individuals with type 2 diabetes. Think about that: Just getting up and walking around the room for 3 minutes after 30 minutes of sitting can improve your blood glucose levels.
In another study of more than 33,000 people over eleven years, researchers found that people who exercise just one to two hours a week had a 44% reduced risk of developing depression than those who didn’t exercise. Their results indicated that just one hour of exercise a week would prevent 12% of depression cases from ever developing . One to two hours of exercise a week is about a 15-minute walk per day, to drastically improve your mental health.
Other research has found that three 10-minute walks daily reduced blood pressure better than one 30-minute walk .
As you consider your schedule and how to best align your exercise program with your circadian rhythm, plan your exercise for the morning or the afternoon.
Exercising early in the morning (around 7 a.m.)—particularly outdoor exercise that supports exposure to natural morning sunlight—improves both sleep quality and quantity.
Afternoon exercise is also good for you; it’s associated with a lower injury risk because your muscles are warmer and more flexible by the afternoon. Exercising in the late afternoon (about five hours before bedtime) can also reduce insomnia. But if you want to exercise in the evening or night, stick to gentle, relaxation-based yoga and stretching routines; aerobic exercise at night can actually interfere with sleep onset and quality .
Here is the key takeaway when it comes to exercise: As important as it is for your health and well-being, you don’t need a complicated plan or expensive equipment or memberships to reap those benefits. What you need are small consistent blocks of exercise throughout your day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the back of the parking lot. Take a walk after dinner. Do a little stretching as part of your pre-bedtime wind-down routine. Get up and do jumping jacks during the commercial breaks when you’re watching TV (to get those 3 minutes of movement after 30 minutes of sedentary behavior). A little bit of movement goes a long way.
For today, make a plan for exercise for the next week. You may want to consider the Physical Activity Guidelines offered by the US Department of Human Services, which reviews the key components of exercise for health promotion . When you’re actually building your personalized plan, choose an exercise you enjoy and a time commitment you can make work based on your specific life, schedule, and obligations.
As you make your exercise plan, I offer this advice:
• When is the best time to exercise? Whenever you will actually do it.
• What is the best kind of exercise? Whatever you will actually do.
Tomorrow, we’ll consider how circadian rhythms affect productivity at work, to help you continue building your best day.
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