How can I be physically fit and healthy and on top of my career game?

Writer, poet and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once quipped, “the first wealth is health”.  What seems a pretty obvious point to many is, for others, forgotten in the pursuit of career and financial success.  But health and wealth are not mutually exclusive concepts; you can have both.  Indeed, with a healthy mind and body, it is likely you will more easily achieve success in other areas of life.

The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself

If you are of sufficient maturity, you may recall the 1999 Baz Luhrmann song, ‘Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen)’.  One of the lines of this song is, ‘the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself’ epitomises the mindset you first need to embrace if you want to achieve balance in your life.  By slowing down and carving out time from your career to reallocate to your wellbeing, you will find you are much more focused and able to perform complex tasks.  This, in turn, will pay dividends for your career ambitions.

You are what you eat

No longer is it possible to deny that health and what we consume are wholly linked.  However, most career professionals I know give scant regard to the amount of coffee they drink, how much sugar they consume, and the nutritional value of their lunch.  By adopting a more mindful approach to what you eat and drink, you will achieve an increase in energy, be less susceptible to illness, feel better, and think more clearly.

We are not suggesting you need to become a paid-up, card-carrying vegan overnight, but by taking stock of your what you consume before, during and after work, you can improve your health considerably.

Standing more is beneficial, but it’s not enough

Consider that 81% of UK office workers sit at their desk for 4 to 9 hours per day, equating to 67 sedentary days each year.  And it is a well-established fact that sitting is incredibly bad for our health.  Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have even measured the cost of our sedentary behaviour, finding the increase in those sitting for 6 or more hours each day is behind £424m of spending on cardiovascular disease, £281m on type 2 diabetes and £30m on colon cancer.  But the researchers believe that not being sedentary is not enough; Dr Gavin Sandercock from the University of Essex says, “The ‘bang for your buck’ of reducing sitting time is pretty small in terms of health benefits – you actually have to reduce sitting time by several hours each day to see noticeable improvements in health.  In contrast, getting people to be more physically active has much bigger effects.”

Weaving in high-intensity incidental activity

You may be familiar with the term ‘high-intensity interval training’ (or HIIT), but exercise physiologists and public health advocates in the US have coined a new term ‘high intensity incidental physical activity’ (or HIPPA).  Incidental activity is the type of movement we all partake in as part of our everyday lives.  Cleaning the house, walking up the stairs, and washing the car are all examples of physical activity we undertake in the normal course of our day.  HIPPA is an extension to this and is about deliberately engaging in bouts of intense incidental activity throughout the day. In a research article entitled, ‘Short and sporadic bouts in the 2018 US physical activity guidelines: is high-intensity incidental physical activity the new HIIT?’, the authors state that high-intensity exercise induces ‘rapid peripheral adaptations’ including ‘muscle mitochondrial biogenesis’; which are (the article researchers assure us) wholly positive for our physical fitness.  HIPPA offers a useful tool to busy career professionals because it can lead to considerable fitness gains but without any additional sacrifice in time. This is not to suggest that HIPPA should be your only form of exercise, but by adding this to your routine, you can achieve greater overall improvements.

The motivational benefits of setting a fitness goal

Fitness watches, such as the Fitbit, may provide a useful tool to encourage many to move more, but when we say fitness goal, we mean something altogether more exciting and engaging. For some, this might mean signing up for the next Iron Man even in Hawaii, but for others, it might mean a ‘Couch to 5K’ programme.  It really does not matter what you sign up for; the point is that with a focus, you have a reason to engage in regular physical activity.  Ultimately, we are all goal driven, and in the absence of a target, we risk ending up with no motivation or drive to move.  Consider signing up for a cycling event such the Prudential Ride London, a beginner’s triathlon event, a Couch to 5K programme, or indeed any one of hundreds of events run by charities each year. Members of BDBF will be participating in this years London Legal 10K walk on 17 June to raise money for advice charities. Please do support us.

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In conclusion

Being physically and mentally fit will pay dividends for your career, however, it is incredibly easy to fall into work habits which compromise your health.  Without your health, your ability to acquire wealth will be considerably curbed.  One would even reason that without your health, is wealth of any real value?  Our advice is simple; take time back for yourself, remember the link between what you eat and your health, weave in more incidental activity, and set yourself a truly exciting fitness goal.  Remember, it takes 30 days to ingrain a habit; just by making these changes for a month, you will not only feel better, but it will also become second nature.  And, even better, your future successful self will thank you for it.

BDBF are employment law specialists. Contact us confidentially on 020 3828 0350 for employment law advice.