People do regular fitness activities for various reasons. To stay healthy, to lose or maintain weight, to tone muscles, to look good. Very rarely is the equation between physical fitness and our ability to work efficiently.
But being fit for work is a very important factor in our lives. It is not something just associated with modern living. It has always been the case. Our ancient ancestors needed to be fit to hunt, to gather, to fight, to cultivate the land and to build their settlements. Today, we need to be fit in mind and body to survive and thrive in the work place. And much of what we do in the gym can be closely linked to the things that we do in order to achieve our goals at work.
‘Fitness’ in the workplace sense of the word refers to mental acuity, resilience, leadership and productivity. Being fit for work means the readiness and ability to perform work to the best of our ability.
Take this from the Harvard Business Review:
“Our mental firepower is directly linked to our physical regimen. And nowhere are the implications more relevant than to our performance at work. Consider the following cognitive benefits, all of which you can expect as a result of incorporating regular exercise into your routine:
- Improved concentration
- Sharper memory
- Faster learning
- Prolonged mental stamina
- Enhanced creativity
- Lower stress
From the Harvard Business Review
To be successful in business, a person needs to be able to deal with stress, be able to think clearly, avoid catching minor illnesses, to make good decisions and to be as physically able as possible.
This all points to putting in place a robust fitness schedule and nutritional plan that will boost the immune system and keep the person active and injury free. We all know how mental acuity decreases if we are struck down by a cold. We all know how much tougher a working day feels if we are suffering back pain or an aching neck.
Which is why so many business leaders are keen for their employees to be gym members or to take part in regular physical activity.
Take one example: mental acuity. It is a well-known fact that exercise makes the brain clearer and sharper. Exercise will clear the fog of stress and promote faster memory recall and enhance decision making.
There are qualities that are fundamental to good business practice that are honed in the gym or on the playing field.
Resilience is one such quality. An employee who does iron man events and triathlons at the weekend is unlikely to be floored by bad news at work. A ‘can do’ attitude trends to be forged during long, tough physical training sessions.
Good planning and time management are likely to be strong qualities among people who have spent time on the sports field or gym. When someone has spent a lot of time fitting regular training into their lives or planning their programme to achieve their best 10 kilometre time, that skill will translate into good business practice too.
Just as you build your own working model to get the most from your day, so building a system to improve or maintain your physical health will help you a) stick to the plan and b) get the most from it.
Setting yourself a schedule for fitness activities is important. Once it becomes part of your weekly routine, then it is easier to stick to a plan.
Variation is key. There is nothing to be gained except boredom and injury if you do the same exercises at the same intensity day in, day out. Mix up cardio and strength, circuits and group cycle. Keep your muscles as challenged as your mind.
Eat with your blood sugar in mind. Your nutrition should be aimed at controlling your blood sugar. That means balancing the intake of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. If your blood sugar is low, you can’t think clearly. If your blood sugar is high, you’ll be distracted.
It is also important to review regularly. If you work with a personal trainer, then he or she can give an independent view of how your fitness is progressing. If that is not an option, there are plenty of ways of measuring available, compare times for running/cycling/rowing set distances.
Whether you are working with a personal trainer or alone, an objective and regular review procedure is essential. And based on your review, it is important to constantly set new targets and goals.
Being fit for work is the way to stay ahead of the game. The good news is that many of the principles – for example, time-management, reviewing, goal-setting – that govern a good working ethos can be applied to your fitness routine too.