How often do you work out?
For me, it’s not enough! Or at least, that was my answer until this month, when I finally decided to change things around.
I’ll tell you about that in a moment, but first I want to share with you the WHY…
Rainmaker, let’s talk about the link between exercise and productivity.
Once a self-help maxim, now a proven scientific fact: regular exercise will boost your productivity!
Next to my desk, I keep a laminated copy of 17 principles pulled from Napoleon Hill’s The Law of Success.
This was really the book that came from Hill’s famous interviews with dozens of the most successful people of his era. Think and Grow Rich, written nine years later, was a distillation of The Law of Success, created to have more commercial appeal. The original writings went into much more detail on more principles than made their way into Think and Grow Rich.
Hill’s principles are not meant as a buffet selection for you to pick and choose from. They are meant to all be followed in equal measure, if you hope to achieve success (financial or otherwise).
One of the core principles taught is “Maintenance of Sound Health.”
From Hill, “Anything that affects your physical health also affects your mental health.”
Also, “Exercise produces both physical and mental buoyancy. It clears sluggishness and dullness from body and mind.”
And finally, “If you haven’t the willpower to keep your physical body in repair, you lack the power of will to maintain a positive mental attitude in other important circumstances that control your life.”
This was written nearly 90 years ago. Long before we became so obsessed over coming up with scientific studies to prove every little claim.
What we’re finding now though is that Napoleon Hill’s claims of the mental benefits of physical health are being backed up by substantial research!
The brunt of the research is about poor health and low productivity. This is consistent with our entire sick-care system. Researchers get funded to study sickness, not health.
What this research has found is that there’s a decided link between poor health and fitness and poor workplace performance.
More and more research is now coming out to support the opposite side of the equation, too. Better fitness and health leads to being happier and more productive.
In fact, I recently read about a bit of research done via an app downloaded to smart phones.
For the 50,000 people with the app, their phone beeps at them once per day.
When it beeps, they are asked two questions…
— What are you doing? And…
— How happy do you feel right now?
And here’s what the research has found…
There’s only one thing that makes you feel better than exercise… SEX!
If you’re going to come in second place… Well… That’s not a bad thing to lose out to!
But here’s what’s important to understand here. It’s also been found that happier people are more productive.
There’s a lot of reasons exercise can make you happier.
First, exercise leads to a rush of endorphins, similar to what you’d get by taking drugs. Although exercise is all-natural and is pretty much always better for you.
Second, exercise can actually change your brain! Our brains are always generating new brain cells. A natural part of aging is that our bodies generate less and less new brain cells over time. Early research suggests that regular exercise actually slows down the slowing down — so our brains replenish themselves more, longer when we make exercise a lifelong habit.
Plus, in the short run, exercise also stimulates your body to create more mitochondria, which are the “power plant” inside all of cells. More mitochondria means more energy — both mental and physical.
Exercise piles on the benefits…
According to the Harvard Business Review which said, “Regular Exercise Is Part of Your Job,” exercise leads to…
— Improved concentration…
— Sharper memory…
— Faster learning…
— Prolonged mental stamina…
— Enhanced creativity, and…
— Lower stress!
And in fact this is really important, if you — like me — have ADHD. I’ve seen recent articles focused on ADHD that say that if you take away the physical activity of outside recess from kids with ADHD, their symptoms get worse.
Just think… Some teachers actually take away research as a punishment from acting up in class… When the very thing that could actually help the kids NOT act up in class is sending them out for recess!
How does that apply to us writers and desk workers? Very simple! If giving kids recess helps them improve their focus and attention, and we want to improve our focus and attention, we might need to give ourselves recess!
What kind of exercise should you do to improve productivity?
This has been my biggest problem in the last couple years.
In my office, less than 10 feet from me right now, is a weightlifting power rack. This is designed for keeping you safe as you lift heavy weights and aim to break personal records. (Lifting “to failure” is a common approach to building strength — but it requires significant safety measures to do safely, especially if you’re lifting alone.)
In the past, I’ve had a lifting routine that I’ve stuck to. And when I was doing so, I was consistently breaking personal records. Lifting more and more.
I was pretty fit, and at one point was even starting to be a little muscular. (Okay, maybe I’m being generous, but I felt good!)
A friend of mine and I used to talk about “strong body, strong copy.” Build physical strength, develop the mental strength to write effective copy.
But for whatever reason (I’m pretty sure it’s when I started my ADHD meds that really screwed me up for a while)… I fell off that train.
I lifted less frequently, then not at all.
Sporadically, I’d pick up the weights again. I’d get going for a few days. Then, inevitably, I’d stop.
Combine lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle, and things go downhill. Not fast — I eat relatively well and am somewhat active with my kids. But they were going downhill, and I reached my heaviest weight ever (and I can’t claim it’s muscle weight!).
I kept telling myself that I needed to do weights again, and telling myself, and telling myself.
To no avail.
When suddenly, I had a simple realization.
The best exercise is whatever you’ll stick to!
Anything you’ll do and keep doing is far better than anything you’ll pick up for a minute then stop.
Maybe what you’re doing isn’t ideal. That’s okay. If it’s better than what you used to be doing, it’s progress.
For me, I would like to get back into more actively using my power rack. But right now, I just needed something that would get me going again.
Years ago, I got into the kettlebell craze. The kettlebell is an old Russian workout tool, that’s basically an iron ball with a handle. I have a 35-pounder and a 52-pounder. There are a number of different exercises you do, most of which involve swinging them around in some way or another.
What I decided to do was set a goal for the month of December that would require me to work out every work day to hit it.
My initial goal? 1,000 kettlebell swings before the end of the month. The swing is the most basic exercise. It can be done one or two handed. You start in a slight squat, holding the kettlebell between your legs. You thrust your hips forward, which — done right — propels the kettlebell in a pendulum motion up toward shoulder height. You swing the kettlebell back down as you sit back into a squat again. And you repeat. Over, and over, and over again.
I decided that for every squat I did, I’d also do a push up. This is in part just to make it harder. And because you want to balance pulling exercises (which the swing counts as, kind of) with pushing exercises.
And then, at the last minute, as I was creating a spreadsheet to track it, I decided to double my goal.
Rather than 1,000 kettlebell swings and pushups, I’d do 2,000. Divided across every day of the month, that’s about 65 reps of each per day.
From the first of the month through today, I’m averaging about 72 reps per day. And my average for the last three days — now that I’ve really gotten going — is 100 reps per day.
And here’s the thing. I’m not necessarily getting all the productivity benefits, yet. But I am definitely feeling better, most of the day.
And as I get closer and closer to the goal, I know I’m going to be feeling better and better.
After deciding to do this, I started searching the internet for others who’d done a similar thing.
Turns out that the BIG challenge for doing this is 10,000 swings in a month. Or 333 swings every day, for 30 days. I think I’ll have to work up to that!
If you want to increase your productivity, here’s what you should know about exercise…
First, get started! Doing anything (even as simple as a 15-minute brisk walk every day) is way better than doing nothing.
Second, and I didn’t mention this above, including some muscle-building as well as cardio has been proven better than cardio alone.
Third, set a goal! Count reps of an exercise like kettlebell swings. Count steps, with the help of a pedometer. Count miles, of running, jogging, walking. Come up with a way to track it, and make yourself reach to get it.
And finally, stick with it! The reason to do even something small if you haven’t been doing much recently is because you’re better off with anything you’ll stick with, than a “better” exercise you’ll quit as soon as the going gets tough.
There is no separating physical and mental health, and you need both to continuously perform your best…
So if you want to be creating big breakthroughs in work, pay attention to your mental and physical health by doing something — anything! — for your physical fitness.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets