Living in Seattle, many of us spend at least half the day at a desk or sitting in some fashion. Most of us spend more time than that. Fitness at work is an extremely easy topic to search and find a lot of information on.

Power travelers and desk jockeys alike have ample insights into to physical and mental state of corporate employees everywhere. It’s not surprising that a Gallup poll estimates that 86 percent of employees are above their normal weight. Nor is it surprising that they miss an estimated 450 million extra days of work per year compared to healthy workers. When you do the math, that costs American businesses $150 billion to $225 billion in lost productivity.

On the flip side, studies have shown that companies who offer wellness incentives and programs save money on health costs, as well as increase the productivity of their employees. So why don’t more people take advantage of and stick with them?

Simply put, building a routine and learning to eat better are extremely difficult for any one person. In a time where we are trying to maintain what we define as work-life balance, why would someone want to take on the greatest challenge in modern day society –– behavioral change.

Do you want your desk to be the death of you?

In 2007,  I was married to my desk and computer and I weighed in approximately 218 pounds. On a small, five foot frame my doctor classified me as morbidly obese. She said to me, “Do you want your desk and your technology to be the death of you or are you willing to take steps to live better?” I chose the later and spent three years losing 95 pounds in order to live better. So how does a tech-forward person, working in corporate America, tackle the fitness challenge? By assessing what’s important to them in order to start the journey of changing behaviors, as it’s not an overnight journey; it’s a process that takes time.

What’s important to you?

The first thing you have to do is to figure out what your ultimate goals in your personal and professional life are.

  • At work, what is it you are hoping to accomplish? Are you going to get there in your current role or are there more steps on the path?
  • At home, if you put work aside, what are the projects or activities that make you feel alive? You know, the ones that strike a spark and you simply can’t stop talking about them?

From there, you then have to look at the time that reaching your work goals will take. Is there a way you can add 30 minutes before you start your day to fuel your passion?

Quick Note: If you are working 50-60 hours per week and don’t have time for personal projects, you have a problem and I’d recommend starting at balancing work hours as trying to be healthier is going to start with your mind. At 50-60 hours a week, your mind is in no place to take on what’s about to be in front of you. Once you’ve figured out how to delegate responsibility (something I’ll talk delegation and work goals in other posts) then you can come back the questions above.

Build passion into your days and weeks

Now that you’ve identified what drives you, it’s time to figure out how to build it into your life. Ask yourself how you can build physical activity you like into certain periods during the week. Can dedicate 20 minutes at lunch three times per week to take a walk? Can you find 30 minutes after work to play with dogs, garden and clean your house?

Anything that requires movement counts at this point, as you are at the start of creating new habit loops. The short moments begin to build into parts of your daily routine. You’ll realize in a few weeks that the effort they originally required seems like nothing once achieved. If you are ready to take it to the next level by increasing time spent, then by all means, do it! And now you may be ready for a bit more structure to taking the changing you are making to the next level.

Change is a process, not an event

Harvard Medical School published a study on the process of behavioral change, citing it as a process rather than an event. By taking changes in stages, you are much more likely to be successful, as well experience the positive benefits related to the new outcomes. It may take you a few attempts to find what is going to help you lead a healthier lifestyle. You may find that something you thought was your passion really isn’t something you want to stick with or you may discover the root of another passion that you wish to pursue. The path to success in the physical activity level isn’t linear, it’s dynamic. So take your time in exploring what makes you tick.

Making it permanent

Over the course of weeks, months and years, you will have a very concise understanding of what you love in terms of physical activity. Whether it’s something you do in a group or by yourself, your body will start to crave the very thing you’ve trained it to become accustomed to. For me, that’s riding horses, doing farm work, practicing yoga and walking my dogs. Those three things keep me at a healthy weight and keep my stress levels low. While it may seem to be a lot for someone who works full-time, my personal passions have become my life outside that provide balance in the work and personal life settings. I encourage you to find yours.

In my next post, we will explore the dynamics of food in regards to wellness. See you on the horse trails!