By Meghan McGrath, Marketing and PR Associate

While most of us know that exercise is important to improve our waistline, we often overlook the impact that physical fitness can have on our career. Regular exercise helps improve blood-flow and thus supplies more oxygen to the brain, allowing for clearer more focused strategic thinking. Also, aerobic exercise is an excellent way to fight anxiety and stress that may be brought-on at work. From a chemical standpoint, working out reduces the level of stress hormones like adrenaline and releases endorphins which improve your mood. Studies have also shown that staying active and getting regular exercise regulates and improves your sleep patterns, helping you to feel more rested and ready for work.

exercise shoes and weightsImproving your mood and reducing your stress level will change the way others perceive your leadership. When you feel trimmer you’re more likely to exhibit leadership facets like assertiveness, inclusiveness, and confidence. Becoming more fit also has a tremendous impact on your self-perception. It’s easier to feel like a successful leader if you show up feeling like your best self. With all of this in mind, and bathing suit season upon us, here are some tips on how to fit fitness into your daily routine:

1. Going to the restroom? Take the stairs. Adding extra steps into your daily routine can have a significant effect on your fitness. When I’m at the office, I avoid the bathroom that’s closest by. Instead I take the stairs to the bathroom that is located one level below. While this only takes about an extra minute and a half, using the stairs is a good way to tighten the legs and glutes. Stair climbing burns about 8 - 11kcal per minute.

2. Invest in some resistance bands. If you don’t have free weights at home, resistance training is an excellent choice. You can get a set of five or six bands for about a thirty or forty dollar investment. Most people don’t realize how important strength training is. Increasing your muscle mass actually helps you burn fat. When you have more muscle mass, your body burns through calories much more quickly in an effort to maintain them. Resistance bands are also light weight and are easy to throw in your purse, briefcase, car, or suitcase. Take them on business trips to use in hotel rooms, or shut your door and do some reps while practicing for a speech or doing some strategic brainstorming.

3. Schedule walking meetings. There are some meetings that can’t be done on-the-go. If you need to have access to a computer or presentation, then keep your meeting in the conference room. Brainstorming meetings however are a great opportunity to fit in some fitness. My colleague Scott and I go for a 10-15 minute walk every afternoon. I’ve found that this is a great forum to discuss blog ideas, get advice about projects, and learn more about areas of the business that I am more removed from. Studies have shown that walking for a total of 30 minutes a day can significantly reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and even certain types of cancer.

4. Create some friendly competition. One of the main reasons people struggle to get enough exercise is because they aren’t motivated. According to a 2013 study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 80% of American’s are not getting enough exercise. (The recommended minimum amount is 2.5 hours per week of moderate exercise)That means that 8 out of 10 people in your office are also probably not fitting-in enough activity. Engaging your team in an optional competition might help improve your performance, and everyone else’s. Here are some suggestions for competitions you and your team could try:

a. The Biggest Looser: Modeled after the popular TV show, this competition encourages people to lose weight, eat healthy, and get active. Regular, but privet weigh-ins hold people accountable for staying on track.

b. Walking Competition: Our company recently signed up for an online service called Walker Tracker, which is an online walking program for corporations and individuals. If you don’t want to sign up for a service, you can keep track of your steps offline using a pedometer and filling out a worksheet or keeping a journal.

c. Incentive Programs: Award prizes to individuals or teams that participate in a designated amount of exercise throughout the month. Prizes could include a company sponsored healthy lunch, gift certificates, or additional vacation time.

5. Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than normal. Take it from someone who isn’t much of a morning person, getting up an hour or two early and trekking to the gym during the week can be a horrifying thought. The difference between getting up at 6:30 and getting up at 6:15 however, is far less noticeable. Here are some ideas for workouts that you can do after your morning coffee that will leave you feeling more energetic throughout the day:

a. Jumping Jacks and Mountain Climbers-No equipment needed. According to a 150-pound person will burn about 5.1 calories per minute doing jumping jacks and a 200-pound person will burn about 6.8 calories per minute. Do 2 minutes of jumping jacks followed by a 30 second rest then add some mountain climbers for a calorie burning aerobic work out. 

b. Walking to Starbucks or Dunkin: If you live or work in an urban area, going out of your way to get a coffee a few times a week before work will incorporate some fitness and get you the caffeine jolt you crave. Not a coffee person? Grab a smoothie or newspaper instead.
c. Exercise Tapes: Don’t have time to drive to the gym? There are lots of DVDs out there that can supplement your fitness needs on days where you’re crunched for time. Many have 10-15 minute fitness challenge options. Most cable providers have a fitness “on-demand” section with free tapes. Additionally, here are a couple of DVDs that I like that are relatively inexpensive for purchase:
i. Abs:
ii. Cardio/ Glutes:
iii. Yoga:

What works for you? We'd love to hear your best practices for becoming a healthy leader in the comments section below. 

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