Be honest: as the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2023, did it cross your mind that this year would be “the one?” The Year You Would Exercise More. If so, you’re not alone. In fact, January is so typically fitness-oriented that this year, high-end gym chain Equinox launched a marketing campaign condoning the fickle surge of interest in exercise. But, like so many resolutions of New Years-past, fitness goals often fall by the wayside, and usually by January 19th. Life gets in the way: work picks up, kids go back to school, and suddenly rest-days turn into rest-weeks.
Exercise is often thought of as an extra-curricular in addition to a long day of important work. It’s an easy target for sacrifice. However, we propose that it’s not as disconnected from your work aspirations as you may think.
Exercise improves concentration, memory, and mood
Dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. You first heard those words in 10th grade biology and ever since they’ve been rattled off to you in a plethora of literal and nonliteral ways. Don’t underestimate these buzzy hormones. They’re responsible for a myriad of positive chemical reactions in your brain. Dopamine and serotonin will give you reward and pleasure, respectively, and norepinephrine lends you your focus. All three of these are boosted with exercise. If you’ve ever sat down at your laptop for a quickly approaching deadline and cursed your head for feeling cloudy, a quick jog might help you finish the task on time. When norepinephrine spikes, so does your flight-or-fight response. A 30 minute walk or run could help you get your task done in another 30 minutes, as opposed to suffering through your brain fog to get it done in an hour and a half.
Not to mention, if you’ve felt yourself disengaged at work in part due to depression or anxiety, those mood-boosting chemicals will give you a little bump of joy and perspective on your day-to-day life.
Working out teaches you to frame goals in a measurable way
The mathematics behind fitness goals are inarguable. A 40 pound weight = 40 pounds. 10 push-ups = 10 push ups. 1 marathon completed is… you get the point. The way we slice up the micro goals in our exercise routine is unlike any other part of our life. Imagine writing a health goal as, “get more muscles.” That’s how many of us write our short-term job goals. “Get more work.” “Finish work more quickly.” The beauty of the gym is that it’s ruthlessly measurable. If the goal is to get stronger, you know to move from a 20 pound weight to a 25 to a 30 and so on.
Fitness can teach us to think of our job performance in a similar way:
- Increase revenue by 10%
- Hire 5 employees
- Sell 750 items
We wouldn’t negotiate the weight of a barbell, right? Our work goals should be just as indisputably measurable.
Carving out time for fitness has a ripple effect on your habits
Once it becomes a practice, fitness has an indirect, but powerful, impact on your whole schedule. In order to exercise consistently, a lot of positive enablers have to be in motion. To feel up for that 6:30am run, you’d have to cut back on alcohol consumption the night before. Even mild hangovers mean inconsistent sleep, shakiness, and fogginess. To bench a heavy weight, you’d need at least 7 hours of sleep the night before or else you could wobble with fatigue during your reps and risk dropping a dangerous load. Sleep is imperative for cognitive function and therefore productivity. To build muscle, you’d increase protein intake which stifles sugar cravings and prevents that 3pm slump no one wants to work through. The snowball effect that exercise has on our lives is sometimes even more important than the fitness goals it achieves.
Next time you consider passing on the gym in order to clock-in overtime, remember that fitness may be just as worthy of inclusion on your job description as anything else.
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