Exercise Fallacy: 3 Non-Exercise Strategies for Busy Leaders to Stay Fit

You’ve probably been told once or twice that staying physically fit is important for your health and longevity. However, as a busy leader, it can be tough to squeeze those hour-long workout sessions into your schedule. Understandably, you just have a lot of priorities lined up that need attended to.

What you might be overlooking, though, is the fact that, by neglecting your physical fitness, you’re likely leaving good work on the table. In other words, by not also prioritizing fitness, you’re missing out on the residual benefits that come from having more energy, improving your mental clarity, lowering your stress, and all of the other “side effects” that come from getting in regular movement.

While you may be right in thinking that it’s tough to justify spending an hour or so in the gym (although, you can get a great workout in much less time than 60 minutes, but we’ll save that for another day), what is not so obvious is that there are many other ways you can improve your fitness without having to step foot in a gym.

Minimum Effective Dose: What it Takes to Be Fit

Now, don’t get me wrong. As the owner of a boutique training facility, it would be silly for me to convince you that spending time at a gym is a waste. On contrary, if you’re in the right environment and find yourself the right coach, your time at the gym can be life changing to say the least.

What I want to do is open your eyes to the fact that you don’t NEED to spend hours working out to get the benefits of exercise. All you need is a little awareness and understanding of what it means to be fit in the first place.

Let’s begin that awareness building by first looking at what you spend most of your day doing, and that’s sitting. If you’re like 90% of American’s today, you’re sitting approximately 10 hours out of a 24-hour period. If you factor in the 8 hours or so that you spend sleeping, that’s a total of about 18 hours of NON-movement.

What does this have to do with fitness, exactly? Well, sitting, or more specifically, non-movement in general, truly is one of the leading causes that are moving you away from fitness and toward disease. Take, for instance, the fact the World Health Organization lists sitting as the 4th leading cause of premature death amongst adults.

But it’s not the sitting in and of itself that’s killing you. It’s the chronic issues that arise due to the lack of movement. NOTE: it is not that sitting is the new smoking, but the lack of regular movement that is the real issue.

This lack of regular movement leads to a whole host of diseases, such as heart disease due to hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure due to lack of blood flow, high blood sugar due to nutrients not being shuttled around (no movement), and possibly diabetes due to chronic high blood sugar.

So, then, how much movement does it take to overcome these issues? How often do you have to move in order improve your health and fitness so that your leadership isn’t cut short?

Well, from a physiological standpoint, it takes as little as 90 seconds of movement to break the downward spiral that non-movement creates. That’s because, when you stand and move after a prolonged period of sitting, within 90 seconds the muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol are activated. Which means, depending on how long you were not moving, you’ve effectively counteracting that period of non-movement in under 2 minutes.

But, how often do you have to get up and move around in order to have a more lasting impact on your health? After all, it can’t be as easy as just standing up for 90 seconds once throughout the day, right?

Of course, there is more to the story than a simple standing session of 90 seconds. But likely not as much as you would think. As a matter of fact, most experts suggest that, when it comes to overcoming the detriments that come from non-movement, you need only to move about 10 minutes out of every hour.

That means that, if you want to maintain a minimal level of fitness and reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, you only need to stand and move 10 minutes out of every hour.

Where to Go From Here: Getting Your 10 Minutes of Movement

Armed with this powerful information, let’s look at 3 strategies you can use to start to beat the non-moving disease:

#1) Developing a Movement Hygiene Practice

This idea is something I developed which combines exercise and the pomodoro technique. If you haven’t heard of it, the pomodoro technique is simply the practice is setting a timer to go off every 25 minutes, then getting up for a few minutes to give your mind a rest from the task at hand.

While this is a strong strategy in and of itself, you might as well make the most of your pomodoro breaks. You can do this by picking an exercise that you like, say pushups, and choosing a certain amount of reps that you want to perform at each break, say 10.

This way, you’re not only getting the benefits of moving around every 25 minutes, but you’re also working in some purposeful exercise into your day. If you do this correctly, your breaks should be between 3 and 5 minutes long. Add that up over the course of an hour and you have 6 to 10 minutes of movement, which is right where you need to be to overcome the impact of your non-movement.

#2) Walking Meetings

This is a strategy that Steve Jobs implemented on a regular basis. He loved the walking meeting because he felt like it allowed the meeting to be more free flowing and less stressful. What he may not have known was that walking meetings have been proven to lead to better communication, more creativity, and higher overall happiness.

When possible, do your walking outside and not inside the office under those forsaken fluorescent lights. Sunshine is the healer of all things, your mood included. So, getting outside will allow your meeting to more natural overall.

#3) Pouring Water

This gem of an idea actually comes from the great Ari Weinzweig (if you don’t know of him, you’re missing out. Read his books on building a great business, managing ourselves, becoming a better leader and the power of beliefs). While his idea isn’t based on getting more movement into your day, we can combine Ari’s original purpose of pouring water with our intentions of getting fitter. We call that multitasking!

Essentially, the idea behind pouring water comes from Ari’s work in his Deli in Ann Arbor. Even though he runs a multi-million-dollar company, he makes sure to spend at least an hour or so a day being out on the floor of the deli serving customers, helping to cook, managing the register, and cleaning tables.

This allows him to get a feel for how things are going. What needs to be improved? How do the customers like the food? Are their systems still relevant and do they need updated? At the same time, this also allows him to MOVE and not sit in his office all day.

If you were to translate this into your daily routine, it might mean that you get up once an hour and go talk to a different team member. It might mean that you go out and help the front desk with some simple administrative tasks. Not only will you be getting in some much-needed movement, but you might also glean some insight on shortcomings of your systems or delegation processes.

As you can see, being fit is more than getting in 5, hour long workouts a week. Being fit means moving on a regular basis and not allowing yourself to succumb to the sedentary monster. Because as you become sedentary in your movement, you also become sedentary in your leadership. So, don’t allow yourself to fall into that trap. Become your best self and lead by example by building regular movement into your schedule.

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Jerry F. Scarlato

Entrepreneur, Fitness Coach, Performance Specialist, Speaker, Author, cook, endless learner. Check more out: www.jerryscarlato.com