We all know exercise is great for our body and mind, but which virtues can be transferred from your workout into the real world?
Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Jennifer Smallridge, shows us how exercise could make you a better manager, employee, entrepreneur, partner, friend, family member… and overall might just make the world a better place!
As with all things in life: beware the of the silver bullet, the quick fixes. There is no teacher quite like exercise to emphasise the importance of showing up, week in and week out, to create positive change.
The cardiovascular, neuromuscular and metabolic systems can take weeks, even months to reflect significant differences – but by continuing to chip away at your fitness, the work becomes worth it.
A sense of patience and trust in the process lends itself strongly to aspects of real life such as saving money, investing, growing your garden, raising children; anything in life which takes time and persistence!
2. Emotional regulation
Being able to monitor situations and respond appropriately requires emotional regulation – something which exercise has been proven to assist with.
Research shows that exercise, particularly aerobic exercise of just 30 minutes, can overcome or at least start to shift negative mood states. It has also been found that exercising first thing in the morning can improve negotiation skills throughout the day – handy for tricky meetings or asking for that payrise!
3. Social connection
Even if you work out alone, people who exercise regularly report higher quality of life and social connections than those who don’t.
Physical activity can foster feelings of empathy, belonging (especially if exercising as part of a group), and overall contributes to a sense of wellbeing. Being active can also underpin many community settings – such as local sporting clubs, walking groups and social dance events.
Research shows that valuable social networks (the real life kind!) reduce mortality, and lower the risk of obesity. The Framingham Heart Study even found that our happiness is dependent on whether the other people in our network are happy and well too. Observing the increase in interactions between people after their sports practice or gym class would support this!
Resilience is a desirable trait in exercise and life – an ability to adapt and bounce back when things don’t go your way. Physical activity isn’t always triumphant, and it certainly can be difficult. It may involve overcoming injuries, illnesses, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) or just having to adjust your exercise plans in unpredictable weather.
Organised sport is a particularly great way to develop resilience in children, reinforcing the importance of repeated efforts and learning from mistakes. There is a reason why people who finish massive physical events such as hikes or runs ‘feel like they can do anything’! It’s because they can!
Exercise is the perfect vehicle for testing resilience due to the number of variables out of your control, and the overwhelming feeling of achievement at the end.
5. Habit forming (and breaking!)
Making a behaviour change to include exercise can be one of the most significant adjustments that people make to their lives.
We all have 24 hours in each day, and to exercise involves dedicating a portion of that solely for your benefit. That choice requires a high degree of self-control, discipline and willpower – and like our muscles, they get stronger with practice.
Picking up a physical activity habit helps us identify other areas of our life which could be improved with a little dedication; and naturally, the more positive health changes we make, the less room there is for unhealthy choices.