After the great discussion on family first on WP Tavern, along with Cory Miller talking openly about mental health I decided it’s time to write about how fitness and my work as a developer/business owner/desk jockey meld in my life.

Exercise and Mental Health

Did you know that exercising can help you feel happier? Not just better as you drop some weight and gain some strength, but exercise has the power to positively affect your mood.

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One study found that 20 to 40 minutes of cardiovascular exercise yields improvements in anxiety and mood that lasts several hours. For some of us, 20 to 40 minutes are difficult to fit in. But the benefits are clear. Among other things, those who start the day with a 30-minute walk, routinely, report the following improvements[1]:

  1. Improved sleep
  2. Increased interest in sex
  3. Better endurance
  4. Stress relief
  5. Improvement in mood
  6. Increased energy and stamina
  7. Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness
  8. Weight reduction
  9. Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness

Even when you grasp all those benefits and want them, it’s hard to get out and exercise if you’re juggling work and family demands. Between sitting at our desk earning money and getting things done at home (and trying to make sure children don’t kill themselves), where do we find the time to incorporate some exercise in the day?

Tips to get some exercise

1. Build it in.

I get a daily dose of deep breathing simply by choosing to own one car and needing to get to my office. Since my wife needs the car to shuttle children around, I bike to work. A recent move reduced my commute to only 800 meters one way, but before the move it was 8 km each way.

I also end up taking a walk at lunch or I do some errands after work on my way home. The choice to have one car and commute by bike means a guaranteed daily endorphin release.

2. Date your partner or get a friend to join.

There are two ladies that work in the same building as me, and four mornings a week you see them out walking for 30 minutes before work. I’ve asked each of them about their routine, and they both say that if the other one didn’t come they wouldn’t go. On rainy bad days they both admit to being tempted to skip the walk but they don’t want to disappoint each other so they still get up and go.

My mother-in-law and father in-law walk together every night. In that scenario I admit that he drives it, but she always says that ultimately she’s glad he does because she wouldn’t get out on her own. Her partner makes her go, which she appreciates…at least later.

The point is to find someone or a group that you want to meet. If I miss a morning at CrossFit I get notes asking where I am and if I’m sick. It’s those people that motivate me get out of bed when I’m tired and am tempted to stay in bed.

3. Get cheerleaders.

Okay, maybe your spouse/partner is not going to go with you, and for some reason you live in a town with no one who walks. Seriously, you’re the only person with legs.

I’m going to assume that this town-wide leg issue doesn’t extend to the mouths of these legless people. Therefore I suggest you get your spouse/partner/friend to simply prompt you about running/walking/exercising regularly.

My friend has me doing this for him. His wife really isn’t into working out and she simply forgets to ask him about it. So I text him every other day and ask if he’s working out that day.

He’s said that without my text messages he’d miss lots of days.

Who can do that for you?

4. Find your time.

What times work best for you to get out for some activity? Is it 5:45 a.m. like it is for my wife and me? Do you prefer an hour break in the middle of the day to get your sweat on? How about just before dinner or after dinner?

If you’re answer is “I don’t know” then it’s time to try some things out and see what times work best for you.

And, don’t forget to get your stuff out the day before. It’s way to easy to stay in bed if you have the added tasks of getting out your clothes, finding your shoes and making a quick snack. Dealing with all those barriers the day before is going to increase the likelihood that you get out.

5. Get sleep.

Oh sure I ‘know’ you love the all-nighters. You may love them, but they’re hurting you for days and weeks after. Getting a full 7-9 hours of sleep each night is going to help you with your motivation. Looking at some exercise when you’ve got a full night’s sleep is way easier than when you’re in zombie mode.

At my house that means all the adults go to bed at 9:30 p.m. since one of us is getting up at 5 a.m. every day of the week.

How do you make sure you get some healthy movement in each day?

photo credit: icedsoul cc

2 responses to “Staying in shape as a desk jockey”

  1. Ginger Coolidge Avatar
    Ginger Coolidge

    Good stuff, and I could not agree more as I’m forever challenged in the weight loss arena. I have a lifetime gym membership to a large US gym that I will never give up since it’s only $9 /mo and they are spread across the country. However, my exercise world shifted on it’s axis in 2011 when we got our first dog. I clocked over 1000 kilometers in the next 3 years walking with her. We’re still walking but I remember that milestone on my Nike + app. This accomplished many things both physically and even more important, mentally. The first year and a half were crucial to get her to walk on a leash properly and it accomplished me being a pack leader, that was mainly the morning walk. The evening walk accomplishes decompressing from the work day and into dinner/evening mode. I value them equally. In the morning I’m listening to tech and business podcasts but with earbuds I’m still getting the sites, sounds and smells of the morning. And since she walks neatly by my side I’m also enjoying the fruits of those early training days. In the evening, no ear buds, just sunglasses and the sound of her nails “click, click, click” in stride. That is my story. 🙂

  2. Greg Falken Avatar

    I start the day with The Five Tibetans (see, then end the day with a half hour walk. I’ve never enjoyed exercise but I really notice a difference if I don’t do these things nearly every day. Sleeping the same 8 hours every night makes a huge difference as well.