Taking time for exercise can boost work quality


POSTED: Monday, September 28, 2009

If you had an extra hour today, how would you spend it? That's a question I often ask my clients. The answers reveal something important to them that is most likely being neglected.

Many women answer that they would spend that extra hour cleaning house or relaxing.

Ninety-nine percent of men say they would exercise—work out, jog or go to the gym. And to their credit, by making it a priority, the majority of them do exercise regularly. Some do it to decrease stress or to be more physically fit. One client's motivation was to look better for his upcoming class reunion!

There are other compelling reasons—to age well, counter depression and improve cognitive performance.

Exercise is so important that molecular biologist John Medina, in his book “;brain rules,”; lists Rule No. 1 to be “;Exercise boosts brain power.”; He writes, “;Exercisers outperform couch potatoes in tests that measure long-term memory, reasoning, attention, problem-solving, even so-called fluid-intelligence tasks—the ability to reason quickly and think abstractly, improvising off previously learned material in order to solve a new problem.”;

Moreover, Medina writes that an active lifestyle is one of the greatest predictors of successful aging. “;Your lifetime risk for general dementia is literally cut in half if you participate in leisure-time physical activity. Aerobic exercise seems to be the key. With Alzheimer's, the effect is even greater. Such exercise lowers your odds of getting the disease by more than 60 percent.”;

The good news is that a little exercise goes a long way. “;Researchers showed that you have to participate in some form of exercise just twice a week to get the benefit. Bump it up to a 20-minute walk each day, and you can cut your risk of having a stroke—one of the leading causes of mental disability in the elderly—by 57 percent.”;

A prime example of someone who has aged well is 95-year-old Jack La Lanne. Watching him being interviewed, Medina observes that “;Jack La Lanne is mentally alert, almost beyond reason, with a sense of humor that is lightning-fast and improvisatory.”; La Lanne continues to work out every morning for two hours, spending 90 minutes in the weight room and 30 minutes swimming.

Perhaps you're among the many who have purchased exercise equipment that has ended up collecting dust or serving as a handy place to drape clothes. Perhaps you've bought a gym membership that's not been used. You're not alone. Is it due to lack of discipline, lack of will or motivation or lack of time?

Truly, with so much to do, how does one work exercise into the schedule?

One key is what Boeing is doing. Medina writes that Boeing is starting to take exercise seriously in its leadership-training programs. “;Problem-solving teams used to work late into the night; now, all work has to be completed during the day so there's time for exercise and sleep. More teams are hitting all of their performance targets.”;

Setting a deadline to leave work is key to preserving time for exercise and other personal pursuits. I have my clients note in their planners (whether they be computer, hand-held PDAs or paper) the time they will leave work each day.

We all work better with a deadline. Without a deadline, Parkinson's Law (work expands to fill the time available) comes into play, and one can end up working into the night.

Exercise does not need to be done after work. Some clients schedule it before work or during lunch break. If there's a will, there's a way to work it into your week. If we cut out time wasters such as excessive television, we can recoup time for exercise, or we could exercise while watching TV!

If you haven't yet done so, I encourage you to make exercise a priority. Even a 20-minute walk can start you on your way to feeling better, looking better, thinking better and aging better. It will be time well spent!

See you in two weeks!


”;It's About Time,”; by professional organizer Ruth Wong, owner of Organization Plus, runs on the second and fourth Mondays of each month.