Almost every day, Sergio Perez walks to the supermarket from his Miami office to grab lunch, trekking about a mile each way. While the heat can be intense in summer months, Perez, who works 50 to 60 hours a week in financial services, says the routine is the easiest way to squeeze fitness into his work life balance.
When I hear friends talk about exercising, they discuss running marathons, participating in cross-fit classes or conquering Ironman triathlon competitions.
But fitness experts say that while those activities are admirable, high-performance exercise is more than you need to get benefits. And, they say summer is the ideal time to start routines like Perez’s that fit easily into your work/life balance and can improve your health.
“It’s not about who works out the hardest or longest. It’s just about do something, most days of the week,” says Chira Cassel, co-founder and director of The Sacred Space Miami, a wellness center in Wynwood.
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The recommendations for exercise from the American Heart Association are 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity for adults, or about 30 minutes each weekday. As Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, notes, walking briskly, at 3 to 4 miles per hour or so, qualifies. So does bicycling slower than 10 miles an hour, or swimming a few nights a week. Anything that gets your heart rate somewhere between 110 and 140 beats per minute is enough, he says.
While the average time people spend each day on exercise is minimal, it hasn’t changed much since 2003. In 2015, on average people spent 18 minutes a day participating in sports, exercise or recreation, according to the American Time Use Survey released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Men were more likely than women to exercise on a given day, 23 percent compared with 18 percent.
“A lot of women have life responsibilities and run into scheduling problems that make exercising more difficult,” says Tony Musto, director of fitness programs at the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “But all it really takes is moderate activity five days a week.”
In summer, longer daylight hours, less rigid work schedules and fewer childcare demands can make it easier to carve out time for exercise. And, the routines we establish now can be crucial to boosting motivation and improving our health the rest of the year. The more convenient your exercise plan, the better chance your routine will stick.
Micaela Stavrinos, an administrative assistant at the executive office of University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, used to go to a gym that took an hour to get to with traffic. Because of the hassle, she stopped exercising. Now, instead of heading home from work, Stavrinos uses the longer daylight hours of summer to go to a boot camp at a gym less than a mile from her downtown Miami office and home. Within a half-hour after leaving her office, she has shed work clothes for gym clothes and is running to the nearby stop sign with others in her fitness class.
“There are days when I don’t want to go, but it’s close by and I push myself,” Stavrinos says. “In summer, when everyone around you is half-naked, you want to wear shorts and look human. That’s motivation.”
Musto says consistency is key to reaching health and fitness goals. Countless studies show that having someone or something keep you accountable for completing a workout will increase your adherence, and your results. Even during summer, life or work easily can get in the way of our quest for the perfect beach body. Using a wearable fitness tracker like a Fitbit, a fitness app or personal trainer, or even meeting a buddy to exercise can increase your chance of sticking to a fitness plan. “It’s really about whatever motivates you and keeps you consistent,” Musto says.
For Tanya Masi, having friends cheering her on and expecting her to show up and exercise with them makes her less likely to blow off an early morning workout. Masi, a senior credit products officer with Bank of America in Coral Gables and a mother of two, attends a group fitness class for women in Coral Gables at least three mornings a week. She says the social aspect is huge: “I have a limited amount of free time, so if I feel like I am exercising, but also spending time with friends, it’s a win-win. It keeps me looking forward to going.”
Use summer to make your get-togethers active, says Cassel of The Sacred Space Miami. Instead of a business lunch, have a walking or workout meeting. Instead of joining a friend dinner, take a yoga class together in the park: “It’s a nice change of pace to get people out of their comfort zone, and less sitting is better for the body.”
Some workplaces make exercise convenient and a bonding activity, particularly during summer when the work pace slows. At Kip Hunter Marketing in Fort Lauderdale, the account executives engage in friendly exercise competition using Fitbits and compare their steps weekly. At MBAF, an accounting firm, employees in the Coral Gables office go from their desks to bootcamp in the conference room on Monday nights. Attendance is up in summer. “We all encourage each other to go. It’s fun and easy,” says MBAF Marketing Director Wolfgang Pinther.
Mixing up your workout routine, and scheduling exercise on your calendar gives you a better chance of follow-through, says Raeah Braunschweiger, a health fitness specialist with the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center in downtown Miami. She suggests trying new trends like barre fitness or belly-dancing: “Find something you find fun. People get stuck in a rut and then start to question why they are doing this.”
Braunschweiger says she repeatedly hears from fitness members who exercise at UHealth at lunchtime that burning off stress and releasing endorphins has improved their health and their work performance: “There are so many reasons to get fit.”
Cindy Krischer Goodman writes on work/life and workplace issues. Connect with her @balancegal, BalanceGal@gmail.com or worklifebalancingact.com.