Sitting for too long, skipping meals – executives can find it especially difficult to stay fit in the workplace. On top of that, physical and mental fitness are intrinsically connected – which means when you are out of form, your mental capacity also suffers. The question is – how do we fit healthier habits into our tightly packed working week?
As the most powerful man in the world – to say he has a busy schedule would be an understatement. Despite that, President of the United States Barack Obama somehow manages to find the time to work out and stay fit. With a specialised fitness plan, executed before the working day begins, Michelle and Barack Obama demonstrate the discipline needed to keep themselves in top form. The First Lady starts each day with a workout at 4.30am while the American president plays basketball and lifts weights. “I have to finish my workout before I begin my workday,” Barack Obama told the US Magazine Men’s Health. With these endurance training exercises, leaders and managers can increase their memory power, attention to detail and ability to problem solve.
Healthy body – active brain
The reasons behind the importance of physical fitness for executives were proved by neuropsychologist Kristine Yaffe. By conducting a study of 6000 people she was able to demonstrate the interconnectedness of physical and mental fitness. Less active candidates were found to have a 30 percent higher risk of mental deterioration. Regular workouts increase blood suppy to the brain and stimulate the building of new nerve connections. Physical activity improves health and leads to improved mental faculty.
When it comes to growing your mental aptitude, lateral thinking has the deciding vote. A thirst for knowledge and new challenges leads to mental alertness. Research shows it is a mistake to focus solely on your routine and career experience. Education professor Karl Josef Klauer from the University of Aachen says: “When you complete the same tasks year after year, your brain loses the capacity to find solutions for new problems”. In this instance, crossword puzzles are not very helpful. “The deciding factor is solely inductive thinking – which means (…) recognising regularity,” Klauer said. What is important is that you are processing new information, which represents a classic challenge for senior managers.
Stay fit in the office – our tips
International guidelines recommend 30 minutes of movement each day. Even moderate physical activity in the office can keep your circulation moving. Use every chance you can to get up and about. Instead of sitting during short meetings, consider standing.
Take two five minute breaks each day to do stretching. Walk down the hall to deliver a message personally to a colleague instead of sending an email. Even more effective is doing a regular workout before or after work. Increasingly, executives are using the journey to the office as parcour, whether it be by bicycle, inline skates or kickboard.
Nutrition during the working day
Those who want to stay fit at the workplace need to commit to a healthy and balanced diet:
- Beat the 2pm energy slump by having healthy snacks on hand. Take a mix of various fruits and vegetables with you to the office and give you body the vitamins it needs to function at its best.
- Avoid short chain carbohydrates like white bread and noodles. Instead reach for wholemeal products.
- Don’t eat your lunch in a hurry at your desk while answering emails or on the telephone. Take the time to eat without distractions.
- Drink at least two litres of water or herbal tea each day.
- Almonds and walnuts are the perfect snack. They deliver a quick dose of energy and boost concentration power.
Healthy meal choices deliver essential nutrients and strengthen the immune system, helping you to avoid the dreaded fatigue that can come after a large lunch. Your blood sugar will also remain stable throughout the day.
The fitness you need to operate at an optimal level during your working week is closely connected with mental activity and flexibility. A strong mind requires a healthy body, making physical activity all the more important. It does not matter whether you pack more movement into your day in the office, or begin each day at the gym. A fitter body requires regular, healthy meals. Get the balance between nutrition, exercise and mental challenges right and you will set yourself up for a for success.