We all know exercise is good for our physical health–and it’s also good for so much more than that.
Research has found that exercise keeps our brains healthy, makes us more creative, reduces stress, increases energy, and boosts cognitive performance. This helps explain why exercise can improve our time management skills and increase productivity on the job.
So if you’re looking for a physical, mental, and workplace boost, it’s time to start exercising–no matter how busy you are with work. Here’s how to fit exercise into even the busiest daily routine.
Get going before work
This is the best way to ensure you’re able to work out in a given day, because you’ll exercise before workplace demands have a chance to consume your day. But for anyone who’s not an early bird, setting the alarm an hour or two earlier than usual can feel like a mild form of torture.
Still, it’s possible for anyone to establish a morning workout routine. Start by scheduling the time on your calendar so it feels like a real commitment–this will make it harder to go back to sleep and pretend you were never going to the gym in the first place. You might also consider enlisting a workout buddy to hold you accountable.
Or cajole yourself out of bed by telling yourself you only have to work out for 10 minutes–odds are good by the time the 10 minutes are up, you’ll be awake enough to finish your workout. And the rest of your day will benefit from it.
Work out on the way to work
If you live within walking, running, or biking distance of work, then an opportunity for workday fitness is staring you right in the face. Turn your commute into a workout, and you’ll improve your fitness without adding any new time constraints to your life.
As with working out in the morning, this will also ensure you’re able to work out before work takes over your time. Just remember to stash a change of clothes and plenty of deodorant at the office.
Move during lunch
If you’re fortunate enough to get an hour-long lunch break, that’s the perfect amount of time to head to the gym. Even if your break isn’t quite so luxurious, you can still use lunchtime to take a brisk walk outside.
Not only will you improve your physical fitness, but you’ll also give your brain an added boost: One study found that taking walk breaks during the workday can help people reduce stress and improve their motivation.
Embrace the “Rule of Threes“
If you don’t have time for a full 30-minute workout session during the middle of the day, you can still fit in 30 minutes of activity. Just break it down into three 10-minute sessions. Spread these out throughout the day according to whatever works best for your schedule:
For example, you might do 10 minutes before work, 10 minutes during your lunch break, and another 10 minutes in the late afternoon or as soon as you get home from work. Maximize these sessions by doing high-intensity interval training or cardio-intensive moves such as jumping rope. Don’t want to get sweaty? Three 10-minute walks will still do a body good.
Take moving meetings
Odds are good you’re not the only person at work who’s trying to add more exercise to your day. Whenever a meeting doesn’t require PowerPoint or other presentation materials, invite your coworkers to join you on walking meetings rather than sitting around the conference room.
If the team is ordering out for lunch, ask a coworker to walk with you to pick up the food instead of having it delivered. Moving while conversing can increase creativity, so you’ll boost your work performance as well as your fitness.
Even if you can’t carve out time for even the shortest dedicated workout during the day, you can still incorporate physical activity into your workday. Consider keeping dumbbells at your desk and pumping iron while reading over a report or brainstorming for an upcoming presentation.
When you need to visit a coworker or use the copier, take the longest route in order to squeeze in a short walk. Take the stairs instead of using the elevator when moving between floors. Use a hands-free headset during conference calls so you can pace the room during the call. Do a few simple yoga poses while you’re waiting for the printer to spit out your materials. Yes, these are all small actions–but they add up throughout the course of a day.
Some people will find they’re able to go for an eight-mile run before arriving at work. Others will find that taking a short walk over lunch constitutes a victory. Still others will rely on small actions throughout the day to achieve their fitness quota.
Regardless of which approach works for you, the takeaway is this: No matter how busy you are, it’s possible to add some physical activity to your workday. And your body, mind, and work performance will be better for it.