It’s hard to deny that regular exercise provides a multitude of benefits, including lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and stress, but could it also make you a better leader? Sure. The trick is finding the time.
Recent research from the Center for Creative Leadership shows that regular exercise and effective leadership go hand-in-hand. In fact, study author and former U.S. Olympic Committee researcher Sharon McDowell-Larsen, Ph.D., says: "executives who exercise are rated significantly higher on their leadership effectiveness than non-exercisers."
However, fitting in exercise doesn’t have to be complicated. You just have to be creative and flexible, and more importantly, make it a priority. Here’s how:
- Do less, more often. Shorter but more frequent bouts of exercise are effective and often easier to fit into busy schedules.
- Get moving. Given the sedentary nature of corporate life, finding ways to increase activity throughout the day can help.
- Keep track. Set up an easy system to log your workouts.
- Take it on the road. More and more executives are finding hotels with adequate fitness facilities or health club access.
- Be flexible. Some executives find it impossible to work out at the same time each day or week, but do well when they build in flexibility.
- Multi-task. Combine exercise time with other activities. Exercise with spouses or kids.
- Motivate. Think of your weekly workout routines as a way to stay strong and fit for weekend leisure activities.
Stretching Exercises at your Desk
Nowadays, people are spending more and more time at a desk in front of a computer screen. As our bodies are not designed to hold these positions for long periods of time, it is possible to feel discomfort and pain in our muscles after a long session in front of the computer screen. Stretching will decreases the risk of injury, increase performance, addresses muscular imbalances, decreases physical stress and makes you feel better.
When and how to stretch
Try to do 3-4 exercises at least once every hour of continuous work, breaking for 5-10 minutes. Try to do exercise 1 more frequently. Adopt a good posture with shoulders and arms relaxed. Perform each stretch smoothly and SLOWLY, avoid jerky and bouncy movements.
- Neck Stretch – Sit tall. Keep face forward, try to touch your left shoulder with your left ear. Hold for 6 seconds. Return head upright. Repeat on the right. Do not tense or hunch your shoulders. Repeat 6 times on both sides.
- Diagonal Neck Stretch – Turn head slightly and then look down as if you are looking in your pocket. Hold for 15 seconds, relax. Repeat 3 times on each side.
- Cable Stretch – While sitting with chin in, shoulders relaxed, hands relaxed in lap, and feet flat on the floor, imagine a cable pulling the head upward. Hold for 3 seconds and relax. Repeat 3 times.
- Shoulder Shrug – Slowly bring shoulders up to the ears and hold for approximately 3 seconds. Rotate shoulders back and down. Repeat 10 times.
- Executive Stretch – While sitting, lock hands behind head, bring elbows back as far as possible. Inhale deeply while leaning back and stretching. Hold for 20 seconds. Exhale and relax. Repeat 1 time.
- Foot Rotation – while sitting, slowly rotate each from the ankle. Rotate each foot 3 times in one direction, then 3 times in the opposite direction. Relax. Repeat 1 time.
- Hand Shake – While sitting, drop arms to the side, shake hands downward gently. Repeat frequently.
- Wrist Stretch – Hold arm straight in front of you. Pull the hand backwards with the other hand, then pull downward. Hold for 20 seconds. Relax. Repeat 3 times each.
- Deep Breathing – While standing, or in an otherwise relaxed position, place one hand on the abdomen and one on the chest. Inhale slowly through the nose. Hold for 4 seconds. Exhale slowly through the mouth. Repeat.
- Eye Comfort Exercises – Blinking and yawning (produces tears to help moisten and lubricate the eyes). Expose eyes to natural light.
- Palming – while seated, brace elbows on the desk and close to the desk edge. Let weight fall forward, cup hands over eyes, close eyes. Inhale slowly through nose and hold for 4 seconds. Continue deep breathing for 15-30 seconds.
- Eye Movements – Close eyes. Slowly and gently move eyes up to the ceiling, then slowly down to the floor. Repeat 3 times. Close eyes. Slowly and gently move eyes to the left, then slowly to the right. Repeat 3 times.
- Focus Change – Hold one finger a few inches away from the eye, focus on the finger. Slowly move the finger away. Focus far into the distance and then back to the finger. Slowly bring the finger to within inches away from the nose. Focus on something more than 2,5km away. Repeat 3 times.
- Hand Massage – Massage the inside and outside of the hand using the thumb and fingers. Repeat frequently (including before beginning work)
- Finger Massage (Perform very gently) – Massage fingers of each hand individually, slowly and gently. Move toward nail gently, massage space between fingers. Perform daily.
The most important conclusion is that, in order to be effective, executives need not give up exercise in favour of work time. At the end of the day, you and your organization will be better off.