Lauren Parsons shares time-saving ways to energise your life, whilst making you more productive and effective in your role

As an administrative professional, your days can be non-stop with multiple balls to juggle and people to coach and guide. How do you find the time to fit in exercise and healthy lifestyle habits to keep you performing at your best, (not to mention feeling great?)

If you are busy but you’d like more energy and confidence without having to add anything extra to your to-do list, then why not snack on exercise. Once you discover how simple it can be, you’ll easily improve both your health and vitality, creating a positive ripple in your entire life.

At work, it’s vital to maintain your energy, be able to think clearly and problem solve effectively. What you might not consider is the impact that short bursts of movement have on your body’s physiology. Exercise turns on all of the learning centres in your brain, improves memory and retention, increases accuracy and makes you a more creative problem-solver. In short it makes you smarter and therefore much more effective.

Break the time barrier

We all know that exercise is essential for great health but with so many competing priorities, it can end up in the ‘too hard basket’. Our bodies are designed to move, yet people often see exercise as time-consuming and boring. For most people, it’s something on our to-do list that we begrudge. But, what if it could be quick and fun?

Don’t let the time barrier stop you any longer

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to slog it out for hours a week. By simply fitting short sharp bursts of movement into your daily life that lift your heart rate and strengthen your muscles you will boost your metabolism, increase your fitness and significantly improve your health.

 Why try it?

#1 – It works 

Research shows that shorter higher intensity exercise is much more effective at increasing fitness, promoting fat loss and preventing diabetes and heart disease than longer steady exercise. Studies by the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences showed that three minutes of intense exercise, three times a week, can be the equivalent of five one-hour sessions at a lower steady pace.

It only takes seconds to get your heart rate up, especially when you are just starting out and as you get fitter you can progress your snacks to keep seeing results.

#2 – It is doable 

When you think of traditional exercise with its travel time, getting changed, exercising, showering and changing afterwards, plus more travel time, it creates a huge challenge, one that often results in no activity. For some there are other barriers such as childcare hassles, cost factors, discomfort and worry about what to wear or how to fit in.

Let’s overcome those barriers

Rather than see exercise as an insurmountable task, simply adopt an active attitude and discover fun ways to snack on exercise anywhere, anytime. Why not choose to be a change agent in your workplace to bring about a vibrant energised culture where everyone benefits?

You don’t need any equipment and you don’t even have to do four consecutive minutes. Picture yourself fitting in four or more one minute ‘exercise snacks’ spread out throughout your day, each leaving you feeling energised and upbeat. Aim for movement as soon as you wake, mid-morning, at lunchtime and mid-afternoon for example. This approach makes it achievable and something you can easily keep up for the rest of your life. No excuses, stress or guilt, just an active healthy body and all the benefits that go with that!

What you do will depend on your own fitness level and it will likely change over time. At 73 it may be different to what you did at 37, but the snack on exercise philosophy still applies at any age.

What if I exercise already?

I’m not saying that you need to stop. What I recommend however is to consider how effective you are. Many people over-train or workout very inefficiently, which means they are effectively wasting time. By focusing on adding short intervals of intensity to any workout you can save time and see better results.

The added benefit of the snack on exercise approach is that it combats the common sedentary lifestyle that so many people lead due to desk-bound jobs. Statistics from numerous clinical research studies show that sitting for prolonged periods increases early death, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease. Not a nice cocktail.

Most importantly, this remains true even if you exercise.

Researchers in New South Wales found that “the longer you spend sitting down every day, the higher the risk of dying prematurely, even if you engage in regular daily exercise.”

Just think about that for a second. The ‘even if’ is the troublesome part. Even if you do a workout before or after work, this is not enough to undo all of the negative effects of long periods sitting!

Sitting down slows your metabolism, keeps blood sugar levels elevated, switches off muscle contractions, and in the long terms leads to high blood pressure, excess tummy fat, elevated cholesterol and diabetes.

UK Endocrinology Researcher Dr Emma Wilmot says “We now know that going to the gym at the end of the day is not enough to undo the harm of hours and hours of time spent sitting at a desk.” For women over 30, sitting has been named more dangerous than smoking, yet it is still very socially acceptable to sit down. Let’s turn that around and start a trend to snack on exercise.

Some ideas to get you started: 

  • Do press ups on the edge of the kitchen counter while the kettle boils
  • Jog on the spot or do knee lifts, when you’re on hold or listening to voicemail
  • Do squats while checking emails or social media
  • Lunge walk to the photocopier (yes, be a trend-setter!)
  • Try out my two minute ten out of ten’ workout, repeating 10 simple movements 10 times each. It will leave you feeling ten out of ten! (Get complimentary access to my video guide at×10)
  • Briskly take every flight of stairs you see
  • Set an alarm for every 60-75 minutes to jump up for a fun deskercise routine to your favourite song (Have your earphones in if required, but preferably you can set an example and encourage your colleagues to join you.)

You might worry that you will lose precious time by adding the movement break in, but in fact the opposite is true. A short active break creates a hormonal response, causing the pituitary gland to release neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine which boost mood. It also increases production of brain-derived neuro-tropic factor (BDNF), a protein which promotes brain neuron growth and repair. In short, active bodies create smarter brains. After a short movement break you will be able to focus on the task at hand much more quickly and effectively, saving time overall.

Getting started 

Here are my top tips for adopting the Snack on Exercise philosophy:

1.Commit to a snack on exercise challenge, snacking every day for at least 4 minutes over a set period of time, for example 10 days or six weeks.

2. Give yourself a visual reminder – a snack on exercise chart (aka piece of paper) on the wall somewhere prominent where you can tick off each day.

3. Tell someone supportive what you’re doing so they can encourage you.

4. Get a friend to join you and keep one another accountability on a daily basis (regardless of whether you see each other, you can text message ‘I’ve done mine’ to each other.)

5. Plan the best time of day to suit your lifestyle.

6. Link your snacks to regular events throughout your day. This could be as simple as each time you use the bathroom, or when you send/receive text messages or before each meal. By linking it you won’t forget and you will quickly form strong habits.

7. Tie your snacks into useful tasks, like biking to the shops, vacuuming under the furniture, pulling weeds or chopping wood (for yourself or a friend if you don’t have a wood pile).

8. Choose a reward that you can look forward to if you keep the commitment of snacking on exercise every day. (A massage, a new book or a fun experience that appeals to you.)

9. Share your success with others and keep spreading the positive ripple effect. The
more friends and colleagues you have that snack on exercise, the more easily it becomes a part of your lifestyle. Meet up with friends for a walk rather than a coffee, instigate standing meetings, join a social sport together or get your workmates to join you for a lunchtime run rather than sitting in the staffroom.

Try it out!

Remember, small things add up to make a big difference. Start snacking on exercise this week and see how it makes you feel. Be a positive catalyst for change in your workplace by demonstrating an active attitude and encouraging others to join you, thus creating an energised environment where every individual can thrive.

You will LOVE the vibrancy, confidence and energy that follow!

Lauren Parsons is a New Zealand-based, award-winning Wellbeing Specialist who believes that everyone deserves to thrive. She is passionate about equipping and inspiring people to truly boost their health and happiness. With over 20 years’ experience in ... (Read More)

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