5 Steps To (Finally) Make Exercise Part of Your Daily Routine

This is a guest post by Kayla Mathews from ProductivityTheory.com

Let’s face it: From the time we’re kids, we know exercise is important. When we were children, though, it was much easier to get all the exercise we needed! After all, part of being young is being active.

I remember riding my bike around my family’s driveway for hours when I was a kid. I don’t remember having any soreness or joint aches afterwards; I just remember that it was a blast. If I’m on a bike for more than 10 minutes now, though, I feel like my legs are going to pop off (this is probably part of the reason why jogging is my exercise of choice).

As we age, it can be tough to work in the exercise we need due to all the things that get in the way of working out. Trying to succeed at work, making time for our families, volunteering in the community and all sorts of other commitments seem to take precedence over staying in shape.

Yet it’s during these segments of our lives when we’re feeling most cramped for time that exercise can be the most valuable, especially when it comes to productivity.

Staying productive has so many advantages that it’s impossible to list them all. Some of the top benefits to constantly producing, whether for personal or professional reasons, include:

  • Being able to better handle your daily expectations rather than falling into bed at night knowing you got only a quarter of your “to do” list accomplished.
  • Impressing your boss and coworkers and moving up the corporate ladder. This not only leads to an increased reputation, but it helps you afford the necessities and luxuries you want in life.
  • Increasing your learning capacity by continuing to educate yourself through the skills you acquire as you produce.

The kicker is productivity can be hard to achieve if you aren’t taking care of your body. There’s a tremendous body-mind connection, and it has to be fueled and fostered to grow.

Here’s Why Exercise Is So Important to Your Productivity

When asked for a tip on how to be more productive, Richard Branson sat back and thought for a moment before replying,

“Work out.”

So why is the connection between what’s happening physiologically versus what’s happening mentally so integral to how much you can get accomplished in a day? Researchers have studied this in detail, and a published medical study from 2013 shows cognitive function in both children and adults increases when moderate exercise was introduced.

In the study, the group that spent 15 minutes exercising — yes, only 15 minutes! — showed improved memory capacity over that of the control group. Exercisers also had faster response times when they worked on tasks after exercising.

Anecdotally, you’ve probably experienced this phenomenon yourself. How do you feel on those days when you have a lot to get done, but spend time loafing around the house instead? Even on days when I only have one or two things to work on, those tasks seem like huge hurtles when I’ve spent six hours in front of the TV binging on Netflix. In comparison, if you spend part of your day being active, you probably get a lot more done.

If you haven’t experienced this, try a little experiment of your own. Drop everything (after you finish reading this post and making a comment, of course!) and go for a 15-minute walk. Then, come back to your desk or your home or wherever you happen to be and tackle an assignment you’ve been putting off.

Chances are you’ll find it much simpler to complete, and you’ll probably do it pretty efficiently. In other words, that little bit of exercise stimulates your body and mind, and enables you to be more efficient when working on various tasks.

What Happens When We Exercise?

When we start to move our bodies around, pretty cool stuff happens to our insides. First, our heart rate goes up, immediately sending more oxygen to the brain. As long as the brain isn’t overly oxygenated, this is a great thing! In fact, being adequately fed oxygen will enable your brain cells to work harder without taxing your system.

Exercise affects the body positively in other ways, too. Metabolism, or the way fuel is metabolized by each of our systems, improves. This leads to fewer feelings of lethargy, bloating, etc.; in other words, there’s less desire to sit around because the body is functioning at a healthier level.

Finally, exercise strengthens our muscles and bones. Even if you are never going to compete on an Olympic level, every little bit helps. Those muscles and bones support you as you go through your day; when they’re functioning at high levels, you can more easily move from activity to activity without fatigue or discomfort.

On a more personal level, I also find that exercising changes the health choices I make every day, which makes me feel good about myself and assists my productive mindset even more.

Rather than opting for pizza and beer on the weekends I find myself eating more vegetables and whole grains because I know eating these foods won’t make me feel sluggish and gross when I want to go running later. On a whole, I feel like I function more efficiently as a person when I’m exercising and eating well (and skipping out on some of the health effects of alcohol doesn’t hurt either).

So if you want to feel more efficient and reap the mental and physical benefits of exercise, the best way to do it is to make exercising a habit.

how to exercise regularly

5 Steps to FINALLY Make Exercise Part of Your Daily Routine

Okay — you’re probably saying this is all well and good, but that you really don’t have time for exercise.

I used to think so, too. But that’s just an excuse. Every person has time for exercise; we all have the same 24 hours in our day. The trick is to take steps to include exercise in a way that’s convenient for your lifestyle.

I really thought that I’d feel more stressed out and overbooked if I scheduled time to work out each day. After I started getting into a habit of exercising, though, I was surprised by how much I could get done in a day, both physically and mentally.

You can make exercising a part of your daily lifestyle, and here are five steps to help you do it:

Step 1: Start Small

One of the reasons exercise programs fail is because we bite off more than we can chew. Instead of telling yourself you’re going to exercise today for an hour, tell yourself you’re going to exercise for five minutes. Yes, just five minutes. Get up and walk around.

If you’re in a multi-level office building, walk up and down the stairs for your five-minute exercise. That’s it. By making this a mini-task rather than a true feat, you’ll be more likely to begin. From there, you can add a few more minutes each day.

Step 2: Break Your Exercise into Chunks

No time for 30 minutes of exercise? No problem. Do three bouts of 10 minutes apiece, or six bouts of five minutes each. You’ll still get the same 30 minutes, no matter how you break it down. Just keep a running tab of how many minutes you exercise each day to ensure you’re getting the minimum you desire.

Step 3: Use Technology to Help

Devices such as Fitbit activity trackers turn exercising into a game of sorts. Each day, you can measure how many steps you’ve taken. Many people find this appeals to their competitive spirits, and they take great pains to meet their goals. The technology is there, and it’s very affordable. Instead of playing Candy Crush, add some exercise to your day.

Step 4: Exercise with Someone Else

It’s much more difficult to say “no” to exercise when you have an exercise partner. You don’t want to let him or her down, even if you’re feeling like you’d rather not work out. Find someone who wants to get more productive, too, and start moving. You’ll be able to motivate one another and celebrate your successes.

Step 5: Treat Each Day as a New Opportunity

Sure, we all have those days when we just don’t exercise. Let it go and don’t dwell on it. Every day is a new opportunity for exercising. If you have a day that didn’t live up to your expectations, don’t allow it to derail your whole exercise experience. Allow yourself to be human, while still holding yourself accountable.

Inspired to start exercising? Start planning the small steps you need to get started!

If you’re already an avid exerciser, I’d love to hear how you feel exercising impacts your productivity. Tell me in the comments section below!

Kayla Matthews is a productivity blogger and jogging enthusiast. To read more articles by Kayla, you can follow her on Google+, Twitter and at ProductivityTheory.com.