by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
Exercise improves balance, and not just your ability to remain upright in less-than-sturdy situations. A workout helps balance those tasks you manage all day long …
A new study showed exercise to be effective at empowering people to accomplish tasks and deal with life issues. Although not the direct result of stronger abs or improved cardio, a workout seems to generate confidence in one’s ability to manage situations. (Those situations may require that increased strength and stamina though!)
Exercise’s ability to reduce stress has been long known. New research focused on the specific impact physical activity had on the work-life balance. Those who committed to fitness experienced feelings of increased competence, which extended to their careers and home life.
Study participants reported greater empowerment at home and work. This isn’t an easy feat for the demographic studied: full-time employees, with an average age of 41 years, about a third of whom had at least one child at home under age 18 years.
Formal workouts were not the only triggers. Adding short bursts of activity, gained by parking farther from a destination or taking stairs instead of the elevator, also promoted feelings of capability. This news is motivation for those too overwhelmed to start an exercise regimen. Squeeze in short bursts of exercise throughout the day. Gain mental and physical energy. Then, expand upon it with a more formal routine. You may quickly find a daily trip to the Center prevents feeling overwhelmed.
The study’s author, Russell Clayton, assistant professor of management at Saint Leo University in Florida, was motivated by his own increased perspective on integrating work and life through his adherence to exercise. He collaborated with researchers from other universities to expose this link.
Combined with further investigations, the results should encourage corporations to promote exercise and healthy values to employees. An employee who enjoys a balanced lifestyle between home and work is more productive and better focused. A staff of such healthy, fit individuals translates into decreased costs, less sick time, and improved morale.
Exercise Provides a Time-Out
A direct correlation between exercise and life balance was not determined in the initial study. Likely, it is a combination of benefits that allow exercise to assist in life’s balancing act. Simply taking time for self-improvement has its rewards. Investing in your health improves all aspects of life, including on the home-front and in your career.
It also provides an opportunity to clear the mind. During a busy day, simply focusing on issues can be a challenge. And, finding solutions may be impossible. A workout offers a therapeutic opportunity to clear your mind and solve problems. It lends time for objective examination. Solutions more easily present themselves.
When overwhelmed, we often suffer feelings of helplessness. Life provides plenty of situations beyond our control. An unreasonable deadline, a child’s t-ball game that conflicts with a meeting, a sick spouse– everyday occurrences may seem to conspire against our harmony. A proactive approach to your health is controllable.
Fitting in time for a workout, even a few rounds of jumping jacks, is authoritative. You are doing something to better your day, regardless of what transpires. This affirmation of control cultivates the necessary mindset to better balance your work-home life. The mere allusion of control in an often chaotic world can be motivating.
It Boosts Creativity
With reduced stress and improved mood, a workout nourishes the state-of-mind needed for creativity. Studies have examined individuals’ creative potential after a workout compared to those who did not exercise. Exercise had immediate and long-term (several hours) effects on creativity. Those with a regular exercise regimen, even weekend warriors, showed stronger ongoing creative thinking.
Creativity was defined as the ability to solve problems and think outside the box. It did not only refer to one’s artistic capabilities, like writing and sketching. This further explains the exercise and work-life balance. Creative thinking is most essential when prioritizing and juggling tasks related to work and family.
It Powers Up the Body
Don’t discount the physical aspect. Physical strength helps endure life’s demands. Whether running a seminar or a household, a body pumped up on exercise gets more done, with less effort. Throw in the swirl of endorphins (feel-good hormones) generated, and the connection between a fit body and a balanced lifestyle is clear. Think of yourself as better able to trim the excess fat from your life and tone the core to its healthiest.
Workouts to aid balance conjure up images of yoga and Pilates. The mind-body connection, meditative nature, and focus on breathing lend themselves to obtaining a sense of peace while mentally and physically improving our balance. Yet, fitness endeavors to promote work-life balance also succeed well from cardio activities.
Trained athletes have about a 10 percent increase in breathing rate, according to research. Oxygen flows more efficiently to the brain, which allows sharper functioning. Aerobic exercises, such as running, cycling, and dancing improve thought processes, which allows quicker learning, clearer thinking, and easier recall. All of these skills promote creativity. The easier-recall aspect alone benefits the work-life balance. Think of the times we forget and double book appointments!
That is not to say we cannot meditate our way to life’s solutions while striking sun salutations. Deep, cleansing breaths are also effective at increasing oxygen flow and improving circulation. Namaste, and flow from home to work and back again.
Consider all that transpires during a workout. So much goes unseen. Our brains run in the background– getting sharper, more creative, and more capable. We continue to learn the benefits exercise has on the mind as well as the body. It is better to live in a world where work and home are in harmony. Help it happen with a workout. Just remember, you still cannot be two places at once. Exercise your right to politely decline and stay sane.
“Exercise and Creativity: There Is a Link After All” at www.idealshape.com.
“Stressed by Work-Life Balance? Just Exercise,” by Maureen Salamon at www.webmd.com.
“The Diet, Exercise and Creativity Connection,” by August McLaughlin at www.livestrong.com.
Balanced stones: www.flickr.com/photos/28201168@N06/8795129590/