Like most of you I think about Japan when people refer to exercise in the workplace. This is not a new concept for them, but it seems to be one that has never caught on in North America. I am currently training for another black belt test and the physical is such that I have no choice but to stop several times during the day to do pushups and or situps. My test in in April so I started doing sets of 50 pushups in February.
It only took a couple of weeks of doing 6 to 8 sets of 50 pushups throughout the course of the day and I could feel a real difference. Some people look at you funny when the walk by your cube and you are down on the ground doing a set but you feel great and who cares what they think. It’s now the second week of March and I am up to sets of 60 pushups 6 times a day. For the test I have to do 5 sets of 50 pushups, but the problem is that the sets are one minute apart. By the 5th set your body can’t recover so you have to build up to it.
So why exercise at work? Well I worked with a brilliant software designer that would go for a smoke and come back with an answer to his problem. I manage to do the same thing with pushups. By doing only 50-60 at a time and spreading the sets out over the course of the day, you don’t sweat or need a shower, your mind stays clear, you stay awake and you feel good.
Another benefit to exercise in the workplace is that it is the great equalizer. The senior management team at the company where I previously worked were not that much older than me (I’m 55), but I don’t think that any of them would consider doing pushups during the day. They probably think I’m just strange, but in reality there are many levels of benefits.
In Japan many factories start the day with exercises. It gets everyone ready for the day and heightens awareness which promotes workplace safety. It keeps the executives on their toes because it doesn’t look good when the leaders can’t keep up.
One of the people that I used to work with suffered from joint pain caused by sitting at a desk all day long. He would set his watch alarm to make sure that get got up every hour or so to stretch. Taking a break helped him immensely. One of the other employees started a noon yoga class that was very well attended.
The problem seems to be convincing people that exercise as work is a good idea and then motivating them to do it. Perhaps what we need is an incentive plan. How about we offer all employees and extra weeks holidays if they meet the training requirements set out by the company? Employees would end up healthier, there would be less sick days, productivity would increase, everybody wins.
If you have a better idea, please comment…