The perennial New Year's resolution to "get in shape" is surely a worthy one. And keeping it might just have a healthy effect on your career. "Absenteeism due to sickness (related to obesity and inactivity) is expensive, and employers are now convinced that good employee health saves money in the end," says trainer Nicole Nichols, who is featured in the workout video SparkPeople: 28-Day Boot Camp.
For women in particular, being larger can result in a paycheck that is smaller. And according to a new survey from TheLadders.com, executives stated that they consider physical fitness to be crucial to workplace success. Research like this isn't surprising to Nichols: "Being fit and healthy gives you the stamina and the resiliency needed to perform at your best."
The trick is to work your fitness regime into your day however works best for you -- which is different from what works for others. For instance, if you struggle to get up in the morning as it is, setting your clock an extra hour early to go for a pre-dawn jog is more likely to drive you insane than drive you to meet your fitness goals.
Below you'll find 13 small ways to make a big difference in your fitness level this year, no matter how busy your professional and personal calendars are. Pick and choose which make sense for your life.
Bring your workout home. Unless your gym is open 24/7, you might find yourself rushing out of the office to get your workout in before the doors close. A better idea? Invest in a home gym, like Guy Cohen, owner of GC Expediting, a construction-permit consulting firm: "I got so sick of skipping workouts that I bought a gym-quality exercise bike for my apartment. Now I ride in my living room after work while watching a basketball game or reading emails and news on my phone," says Cohen. Another option? Workout videos, which can be found so inexpensively on Amazon that you'll save hundreds of dollars when you compare them to a yearly gym membership.
Do mini-workouts during the day. Little bursts of exertion not only help you wake up during a long day, but they can give you some benefits of exercise when you don't have time for a full-force workout. "Try a few push-ups when you wake up; lunges while you wait for your coffee; dash up a couple of flights of stairs here and there; do some squats when you go to the bathroom (yes, over the toilet!); do calf raises while at the photocopier; and do the plank before bed. The list is endless," says healthcare consultant Stephanie Staples.
Pay someone to motivate you. Many gyms run specials this time of year with free training sessions for signing up. After a few sessions with a trainer, you'll have a workout plan you can do on your own. But if you can afford to keep your trainer, it'll pay off with mega-motivation, says Kelli Calabrese, owner of Calabrese Fitness Consulting LLC. "Pay for sessions in advance. When someone makes a financial commitment and has a set time to work out, they are more likely to set their exercise session with higher priority over other appointments that may arise." Because if you pay for a gym and don't use it, you probably feel bad about wasting the money. But if you pay a trainer you'll want to keep the commitment to them (and to yourself).
Commute by foot or bike. If you don't have time for a workout, multitask by hoofing it to and from work--even part of the way. "I live in New York City and get off the subway one or two stops before my work stop and walk the rest of the way. I also always walk up any flights of stairs [on my route] as opposed to taking the escalator," says IT technician Zaya Star. As an added bonus, you'll save a little gas or public transportation fare money.
Take your calls "to go." Got a headset? Then you can take your business "to go" and torch calories while on lengthy calls. "I pace, climb stairs or take a brisk walk [while taking] conference calls," says Marc Sickel, founder of Fitness for Health. Of course, this works best if you choose a quiet route or you're just listening into a conversation.
Surf YouTube. YouTube has everything, from laughing babies and talking dogs. It also has at-your-desk workouts. Marketing director Shawna Bell found one featuring chair aerobics and fits the five-minute workout in when an hour-long one isn't in the cards. Complete a few 5-minute workouts on your lunch hour and you'll still have time left over to catch a laughing tot or two.
Sleep in your workout clothes. Workout clothes are comfortable -- just like pajamas. Use this to your advantage, suggests NikkiFitness owner Nicole Glor: "I have been known to sleep in a sports bra and shorts, throw on sneakers and go in the morning!" Clearing out any obstacles -- like changing clothes on a cold winter morning -- might just be the impetus you need to get in a quick workout before the workday starts.
Sit your butt on a ball ... Plant your tush on a stability ball when you're at your desk for an instant stomach strengthener. "Sitting on the ball, which is unstable, forces me to sit upright and use my core to stabilize. Great workout for my abs!" says pilates instructor Lindsay Lopez of FORM Pilates. Start with a few minutes a day and build up as your core gets stronger. (If your corporate atmosphere wouldn't allow this, try it in your home office.)
...Or stand up. "I have several clients who use adjustable standing desks with mini-steppers to stay active while they are working," says Sergio Rojas, owner of reDEFINED Fitness & Physical Therapy. Again, you'll have to be the judge whether to try a home-office version over going public with your fitness efforts.
Do intense interval training. Got 20 minutes? Make it count with HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, suggests trainer Tony Velasco, Owner of Afterburn Fitness. Here is the at-home quickie workout he prescribes to his clients when they only have a few minutes before or after work: "Do as many double-unders with a jumprope (spin the rope twice before feet return to the ground) as you can in 1 minute. Rest 30 seconds. Do as many jump squats as you can in 1 minute. Rest 30 seconds. Do as many jackknife abs as you can in 1 minute. Rest 30 seconds. Repeat three times through and add up your score. Try to improve each day!"
Pack your gym bag with your lunch bag. Just like wearing your gym clothes to bed, packing your workout clothes the night before removes another obstacle to keeping your fitness resolution. "If it doesn't work the first couple of days, don't give up. Keep packing it until you make it to the gym. Once you see how simple it is, the frequency will increase, and so will your results!" says trainer Maria Simon, who will appear on Univision's upcoming weight-loss reality show Dale Con Ganas (translation: Give It Your All).
Put your workout in your planner. You schedule your professional and personal appointments -- why not your workouts? "Sit down with your weekly calendar and figure out when you will have time for exercise and stick to it," says trainer Michelle Betts of VH1's Tough Love Miami. That way you won't have to choose between working, working out or seeing friends and family--you'll know where everything is supposed to fall into your packed days.
Do a simple sun salutation. If any of the short but intense workouts listed above make a morning workout sound especially miserable, try something gentler, suggests Amanda Ebner, certified trainer at FitOrbit.com. "Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier each workday and complete a series of 5-10 yoga sun salutations as well as 10 push-ups and 25 crunches. This daily "wake-up call" will not only elongate and activate your muscles, but help stimulate blood flow, increase energy, and yes -- tone your arms, abs and core muscles!"
Got another tip for fitting fitness into a busy life? Add it to the comments section below.