As a UW fitness coordinator, I unapologetically confess to exercise evangelism. Exercise might not save the world directly, but until we make it more of a priority, I believe that our country will continue to fall far behind all other wealthy nations in life expectancy, suffer from chronic depression at a remarkably high rate, and experience gross health disparities across race and class lines.
So why don’t we just do it already? Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about exercise adherence, it’s that time management is perhaps even more important than motivation. Although I have pushed early morning exercise as a solution to the time management conundrum, the reality is that it just doesn’t work for everyone. And so today I am here to say that I have seen the light. Literally. It’s the light that shines through the windows of UW’s rec center (the IMA) at my new 11:30 a.m. group exercise class. While I’m not planning to abandon early mornings entirely, I am learning that midday workouts are a beautiful and powerful thing. They may or may not save the world, but they just might save your body and mind from the sitting disease that threatens us in the modern world.
The Department of Recreational Sports Programs is partnering with The Whole U to offer two free lunchtime Cardio Fusion fitness classes on Monday, May 18 and Wednesday, May 20 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. You can register for one or both. All UW faculty and staff are welcome and no IMA membership is required.
Why exercise midday?
It’s no secret that Americans are working (and commuting) more than ever before, and yet they’re more sedentary. Workplaces expect more, stay-at-home parents are becoming an endangered species, and commute times aren’t getting any shorter in this ever-popular city of Seattle. Recently I befriended a visiting doctoral student from Oxford — not exactly the backcountry of Europe — and she says the thing she misses most about home is an 8-hour workday. All day long at a desk means that the average American only stands for three out of every 24-hour period. Lunch workouts help to break up the inactivity, lending some much-needed stress relief and focus to the long workday.
Food isn’t the only fuel your brain needs. John Ratey, professor of Clinical Psychology at Harvard Medical School, has studied the impact of exercise on the brain’s ability to focus and perform. In The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Ratey writes: “Cognitive flexibility is an important executive function that reflects our ability to shift thinking and to produce a steady flow of creative thoughts and answers as opposed to a regurgitation of the usual responses. The trait correlates with high-performance levels in intellectually demanding jobs. So if you have an important afternoon brainstorming session scheduled, going for a short, intense run during lunchtime is a smart idea.”
Exercise is one of the easiest, most fail-proof ways to boost endorphins. And no, you don’t have to be a runner to get the so-called runner’s high. Although it varies by person, many experience an endorphin release as little as 10 minutes into exercise.
How do I fit it in?
Maximize. Plan a strenuous workout to gain maximum health benefits in a short period of time. For example, climb the stairs from Montlake to Hall Health, do sprints on the Burke Gilman, or join a fitness class consisting of high intensity intervals.
Commit. Find a workout buddy, or sign up for a fitness class or personal trainer. Whatever or whomever you commit to, without social accountability the pressure of looming workplace deadlines might tempt you to temporarily forget that your health is the foundation to all success. Mark this time off on your work calendar and guard it closely, setting an example for the rest of your office.
Pack. I like to pack in bulk, bringing in a jam-packed duffel bag full of baby wipes, fitness gear, power bars, deodorant, and extra water bottles every Monday morning. Whether you prefer to do it daily or weekly, you’ll be in a routine in no time.
So sign up for these classes to give it a try. Hope to see you there, where the light is always shining!
Anne Garrett is a fitness coordinator for the Department of Recreational Sports Programs, a graduate student in the University of Washington’s College of Education, and an untreatable endorphin junkie.