By Brad McLean

New Years resolutions often start with a plan to either begin or recommit to an exercise regime but the biggest challenge is squeezing it in to our demanding schedules.

It’s one of the great challenges of modern life – finding a way to successfully balance work and life commitments without feeling like we’re either chasing our tail or burning out in the process.

We’re often stuck between the unfair choice of determining which part of our lives will be compromised to make time for exercise: work or home?

Russell Clayton, Assistant professor of Management at Saint Leo University in the US, has undertaken some research and that might make you reconsider how you prioritise exercise.

Clayton and colleagues surveyed working adults to gather data about their exercise habits and their ability to resolve the conflict of work and home demands and found exercise might be one of the solutions rather than one of the problems. 

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, he explains that study results, which are yet to be published, showed people who do regular exercise actually experience less conflict between work and home roles rather than more.

Adhering to a regular exercise plan is well known to be beneficial, he writes, especially when it is planned, structured, repetitive and purposive.

“[But] What we found was overwhelming support for a positive relationship between regular exercise and satisfying management of the work-home interface,” Professor Clayton says.

Here are the reasons exercise cuts the internal conflict between work and home responsibilities:

  • Exercise acts to reduce stress and when levels of stress are reduced time focused on both work and life is more productive, effective and enjoyable. Cutting stress enhances focused quality time.
  • Self-efficacy improves with regular exercise. People with greater self-efficacy take on tasks with a more ‘can-do’ mentality. Rather than avoiding things and feeling overwhelmed with multiple tasks, those with greater self-efficacy tackle things head on, more positively and greater productivity results.

The timing and type of exercise does not seem to matter.

As Professor Clayton explains, some people begin the day with exercise to kick things off with a clear head while others exercise in the middle of the day to improve post-lunch productivity. For many, participating in exercise at the end of the day helps delineate the beginning of personal time.

“Through its direct impact on increased self-efficacy and reduced psychological strain, exercise leads to better integration of professional and personal lives,” he writes.

So if you were searching for a good reason to do exercise but worry about it cutting into your existing commitments perhaps its time to think again…it might just make things better.

Brad McLean Sydney psychotherapistBrad McLean is a relational psychotherapist and coach based in central Sydney. He can be contacted on email.




photo credit: hey mr glen

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