Exercising the fitness option

Fit workplaces are happy workplaces

I recently finished a book by and about ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes. He does huge training runs to prepare himself for races of more than 420km (that’s ten marathons) in one go. One of the things I found interesting — and something the book doesn’t unfortunately delve into much — is that he works full-time (or at least he did at the time of writing the book) and has a family, yet still finds time to train.

Karnazes is at the extreme end of the scale. Most of us are nearer the other end — struggling to find the time to fit exercise into our daily routine.

Often we blame work for our lack of time to exercise. But in some cases, workplaces can actually help.

Kevin Yates is the national fitness manager for a Fitness, a UK gym chain. Writing on HR Zone, Yates says the number one reason people give for not fitting in exercise is a lack of time. However, he reckons people have an unrealistic perception of the time it takes to do an effective workout at a gym and it’s more about the quality of your workout than the time spent there.

He says people should aim for 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise five times a week and that he believes companies providing corporate gym membership open the door for lower paid workers who might not ordinarily join a gym.

“Fitter, healthier employees will result in less absenteeism. This, in turn will have a positive effect on bottom line profit.”

If companies don’t want to subsidise gym membership, they can instead offer a cash alternative which can be put towards a healthy activity — “a sailing course or some rollerblades, for example”.

Yates also says companies should encourage employees to train for and enter local events as a team.

Companies can also encourage the formation of company sports teams and provide showering facilities to encourage employees to cycle, run or walk to work, he says.

Of course not every workplace is willing or — in the case of things like providing shower facilities — able to take such measures. This means people need to work even harder to fit exercise in. Kathryn Martyn, writing on Ezine Articles, suggests the obvious but not necessarily easy solution — get up an hour earlier to exercise.

“At first I said I'd never be able to do it,” she writes. “I was already sleep deprived rising at 6am so how would I ever get up at 5am? I'd never be able to get to sleep earlier (this is still true), and a hundred other reasons why it wouldn't work. And then I tried it, and it does work. I'm still sleep deprived, but that extra hour in the morning is a Godsend. I love it.”

The beauty of exercise first thing, she says, is that nothing else (like unexpected calls or traffic jams) can interfere.

Like Yates, she attacks the “don’t have time" excuse. She suggests exercising during the ads of your favourite TV show.

“Today there are over 20 minutes of commercial time during each hour of the show.”

If you don’t think you’ve got the right gear, Martyn says try push ups or standing squats.

Finally, one of the most repeated pieces of advice is to diary in time to exercise and stick to it, just as you would any other appointments.

Mills is a Dunedin writer. Email her at kirstin_mills@computerworld.co.nz

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