Exercise Tips For Employees provided by INTER VALLEY HEALTH PLAN Exercise is important for everyone. Basic, regular exercise provides our bodies with strength and the tools that help us fight illness. It’s common for office-based employees to complain that they don’t have time, or are “just too busy” for exercise. Office employees, however, need exercise just as much as,if not more than,everyone else. Sitting at a desk or behind a counter eight hours per day can cause body to become weak in several areas,not the least of which being the cardiovascular system. The following information, provided by non-profit HMO Inter Valley Health Plan, provides some basic exercise knowledge and tips for even the busiest of office workers. MEETING THE EXERCISE CHALLENGE WITH “TIME-MINDED” WORKOUTS People who work long hours, raise a family, or are involved in any other normal life activities often find that trying to fit new habits, such as exercise, into their lives is a challenge. Time-minded workout routines provide optimal training in fewer and shorter allotments of time. With planning, these workouts can be effective and fun. There are several steps required for a successful program. Before any activity is begun, the first step is to set realistic fitness goals. The specific goals vary with each individual, so each person must select the areas that they want to work on: –Do you want to improve your cardiovascular health and improve your general health? –Do you need to lower your blood pressure or try to counteract a family history of heart problems? –Do you want to improve your stamina? –Is your posture and body alignment a problem? –Do you need to increase your general body strength or are you interested in specific muscle groups? –Do you have joint problems or injuries that require exercises for improvement? –Do you want to improve the tone and appearance of your muscles? –Do you need to increase your flexibility? –Do you want to decrease your amount of body fat? –Do you need to decrease your stress level and improve your mood? It is important for the busy office person to select one or two areas to improve instead of a multitude of goals to keep the program realistic. When goals are met, it becomes easy to alter the routine to focus on new goals and/or concerns. CAREFULLY SELECT YOUR ACTIVITIES Once you have decided which areas you are interested in concentrating on, the second step is to explore the activities that you can choose from. For example, if you want to keep your heart healthy and decrease stress, you would probably focus on aerobic activities. If you need to increase your strength or improve your posture, you would use a weight training program. The specific activities you choose should be ones that you can fit into your normal schedule. The decision about where to exercise is a large factor in considering the amount of travel time and accessibility. Your exercise program should be enjoyable so that you will look forward to it and be more inclined to do it. If you have a long lunch hour and work very near a fitness facility, you may want to exercise at that facility. If you are an “early morning” person who enjoys a private time with the TV news before the family gets up, exercise can be done while listening to the reports. If you think being outdoors in the evening would be a treat after a long day indoors, you should explore outdoor activities such as jogging or tennis. PLAN YOUR EXERCISE SESSIONS The third step in planning a successful fitness program is to decide how often you will exercise, how long the sessions will last, and how hard you will work out. The general ranges for aerobic activity is 3-5 times a week for 20-60 minutes at a pace that will cause you to breathe harder than normal but not so hard that you need to stop before the session reaches its end. These ranges include beginners to advanced exercisers, the beginners using the lower range and the active person working out harder and more often. Weight training can be performed 2-3 times a week with as few as one set of exercise for each muscle group. More advanced exercisers can do more exercises or sets of exercises as they desire. But the average busy person can benefit with a very realistic and manageable amount of weight training. The individual who does not own weights and chooses not to join a fitness facility can get a good muscle conditioning workout with large elastic bands designed specifically for this activity. Flexibility exercise is a part of the “cool down” or final part of either aerobic or weight training workouts. Additional stretching can be done daily if desired. RECORD AND MONITOR YOUR EXERCISES Once your program has been planned, the next step is to make a commitment to yourself to begin and maintain your routine. As you get used to including the activities in your week, you will form a habit of doing them. The final step is to record your program and review it regularly. A simple notebook or daily calendar can be used to write down your activities, including the amount of time spent, how hard you worked, and resistance used. You may want to note any changes you are noticing. About once a month, review your progress and see if you want to revise your program in any way. This step will only take a few minutes and will help you keep your program working for you and motivate you to continue. Some people find they need more knowledge about exercise before they can follow these steps. There are many excellent references about exercise available: books, video tapes, and fitness instructors. Make use of the sources available and you can enjoy time-minded fitness programs in your busy life. As a busy office worker, it is important to find a convenient exercise program you can live with. The reward will be improved health. For more information about Inter Valley Health Plan, call (800) 251-8191.