Fitness, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the quality or state of being fit.” So what, then, is “fit”? Therein lies the key to true fitness. As Merriam-Webster explains, “fit” means “sound physically and mentally.” Here are five ways to build true fitness — both physical and mental — into your busy day.
1. Sleep is the foundation of fitness. According to Russell Foster, a circadian neuroscientist at Oxford University, the quantity of your time asleep affects the quality of your time awake. Over a third of our life should be spent sleeping. This can feel like a waste of time, but it’s not! Sleep-deprived people cannot function at their highest ability. Sleep deprivation decreases your ability to remember and process information. A good night’s sleep can give us up to a three-fold advantage in complex problem-solving. Also, cutting sleep short by even an hour or two reduces the effectiveness of your immune system by about 25 percent, leading to more illness and disease. And did you know that lack of sleep increases the release of a hunger hormone that causes cravings for carbohydrates and sugars, making it much more difficult to maintain a healthy weight? Don’t neglect this vital part of your fitness.
2. Eat breakfast. I know. You are busy, and there aren’t enough hours in the day (especially now that you are sleeping eight hours every night). But the truth is that eating breakfast will save you time in the long run because it helps recharge your brain and body, making you more efficient. And if you eat a nutritious morning meal, you won’t be taking time to reach for unhealthy snacks throughout the morning to stave off your hunger. So what to eat? A healthy breakfast is one that is low in sugar with sufficient protein and fiber. Hello healthy, the blog at MyFitnessPal.com, has great ideas for healthy and quick breakfasts. One of the best posts has recipes for overnight oats that prepare themselves in the fridge while you sleep, and breakfast cookies (yes, cookies!). Other good choices include eggs with whole grain toast or Greek yogurt with whole grain granola and berries.
3. Exercise every day. That may sound impossible if you think going to the gym for an hour is the only kind of exercise that counts. But, thankfully, it’s not. Exercising for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, is great for physical fitness. Start thinking about ways to fit “movement” into your day rather than just focusing on the gym. One of the easiest workouts to incorporate into your day is walking, which is one of the most effective forms of exercise. Use 15 minutes before lunch to walk briskly around the halls or the block, or walk to a restaurant that’s about a mile away. Use a wearable like Fitbit or Shine or Up to track how much you are moving. Do the simple things, like taking the stairs, parking farther from your destination than necessary, or biking to work. You can also incorporate weight training into your day with only snippets of time by using various apps available for your phone and tablet. Keep a few dumbbells in your office, and you can bust through your afternoon slump by exercising for just five to eight minutes.
4. Include a friend. You know those friends you like catching up with once a week, if you can find the time? Use that time for double-duty and make it part of your schedule: Catch up while you exercise together. Having someone to meet can eliminate self-talk that says you don’t have time to exercise. You might talk yourself out of it, but you’re less likely to try that with your friend. Exercising with someone else makes the experience more enjoyable, too. Plus you’ll be building personal relationships that improve your mental fitness!
5. Meditate daily for as little as three minutes. A great way to start and end each day is with meditation. It need not be long. Because I have a hard time sitting still and turning down the chatter in my head, I prefer guided meditations that help me focus on other ideas. For this, I love Stop, Breathe & Think (SBT), a free app for iPhone and Android. It provides guidance on how to meditate, so it is perfect for the novice, and it tracks your days and running total of time meditating. There are 15 free meditations ranging from three to ten minutes, and each starts with a “check-in” that asks you to think about how your mind and body feel. Based on your answer, SBT chooses the meditation that you need. Install this app on your phone and meditate on the train or first thing when you wake up, or when you first sit at your desk for the day. Three minutes = no excuse.
Remember, every little bit helps make you more fit and lead a happier, healthier life!
Jamie J. Spannhake is a lawyer and certified health coach. She writes and speaks on issues of interest to lawyers, including time and stress management, health and wellness, work-life balance, and effective legal writing.