Ease into a fitness program
here’s one thing all financial advisors know: exercise is good for both the mind and the body. Unfortunately, many advisors don’t act on that knowledge.
One reason why you might be reluctant to get up from your desk, says Michelle MacLean, a wellness coach and nutrition consultant in Halifax, is time.
“Busy professionals don’t feel they have enough time to be healthy,” she says, “because it takes away from their productive work hours.”
But this belief is erroneous, she says. Finding the time to be physically active doesn’t require major lifestyle changes. In fact, incremental changes are the most effective.
“Individuals starting a program ultimately need to build in a habit or pattern of making healthy choices and activity every day,” says Charles Curtis, president of Curtis Personalized Health Management Ltd. in West Vancouver, B.C. “That can seem overwhelming, but it’s about starting with ‘baby steps’ week to week and building on that success.”
There are ways to squeeze in exercise during the day, notes Kasandra Monid, a wellness coach and owner of ThinkLife Coaching in Toronto. These include getting up 30 minutes earlier in the morning a few times a week to exercise, parking your car farther away from your destination and walking the rest of the way, and taking the stairs at every opportunity.
Invest in a pedometer to track how many steps you actually walk in a day, says MacLean: “It’s a great motivator.”
To remind yourself to build exercise into your day, she adds, set a timer to go off every hour to remind yourself to get up from your desk and go for a quick walk about, do some stretching or do a few squats, jumping jacks or bicep curls.
Pursuing a variety of activities — dancing, swimming, cycling or hiking are examples — and varying your routine also helps, Monid says.
Although 30 minutes of exercise a day is recommended, there are less time-consuming options for days when even half an hour is hard to fit into your schedule.
Jay Arzadon, owner of Arzadon Fitness in Toronto, recommends high-intensity interval training, which involves short bursts of heart-pumping exercise with periods of rest in between. “[These] workouts are quick and efficient, and you can get a good workout in as little as four minutes.”
Regardless of the exercise regime that appeals to you, set attainable targets. Begin by identifying the biggest barriers to your success, then set a goal that’s specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (a.k.a. SMART) to overcome those obstacles and infuse regular exercise into your lifestyle.
“Break the main goal into in- cremental, successful steps week by week,” Curtis says. “Work with these goals until they’re mastered as a foundation for moving to the next step or small goal. This builds confidence and success one step at a time.”
Small changes can result in big gains. Beginning with a manageable exercise and adding one new element into your schedule each week helps you change habits without overturning your life. For example, you can begin by taking the stairs three days a week. The following week, you can plan an activity with the kids or a stroll with your partner after dinner.
And be prepared for missteps. Setbacks are part of the process, Curtis notes: “Accept them, learn from them, be easy on yourself and readjust. Two steps forward and one step back always gets you forward.”
Seeking some help also may be helpful. Support from family and friends is critical, and hiring a personal trainer or health professional can make you more accountable, Arzadon says.
If you’re concerned that your work will suffer at the expense of a workout at the gym, breathe easy. Exercise actually improves productivity.
“According to neuroscience, regular physical exercise benefits both mind and body,” says Monid. “It triggers the release of neurochemicals that lift mood, sharpen focus, improve memory, lower stress and help guard the brain from the effects of aging.”