Jeff Davidson's book, Simpler Living, was Amazon Kindle #1 in its category, first quarter, 2012. Jeff is featured in the NY Times, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Businessweek, Fortune, Organized Executive, and Success.

Make Time for Recess

Working long hours is not an efficient way to effectively do your job. But, if for the foreseeable future you have to work long hours, how do you make the best of it? By staying fit. If, as a nation, we worked longer hours than everyone else, but stayed in shape, perhaps the situation wouldn’t be so bad. New data, however, released by the National Institutes of Health indicates that Americans in general are getting fatter. 33% of adults are now at what is regarded as the obese level.If 33% sounds high, consider that the indicators of obesity have been lessened over the years. In other words, you have to weigh more today at your height to be considered obese compared to charts used in the 1960’s. This means that as a nation we are not as physically fit as we need to be – not anywhere near it – to work the hours we do, and keep stress at a safe level.

Vigorous workouts help me to be calmer during the day, better able to put in my nine hours–as long as I get a nap–and finish in the evening with enough energy to still have a life.

Play Time!

For several years, the National Sporting Goods Association has conducted an annual sports participation survey. The most popular sport in America, by far, is exercise walking with some 19,770,000 participants, nearly two-thirds of them women. Exercise walkers engage in this activity an average of 110 times in a 365-day year, or almost once every three days. If you’ve been working too many hours, and haven’t been getting enough exercise, exercise walking is probably the easiest way for you to reintroduce yourself to physical activity.

Closely on the heels of exercise walking, comes exercising with equipment with some 11,350,000 people participating, in this case, slightly more men than women. People who exercise with equipment do so nearly one day out of every three.

Following these exercises, the most popular include freshwater fishing, (I’m not sure what aerobic payoff this may have), bowling, bicycle riding, basketball, camping, and billiards. Most of these don’t require vigorous exercise at all.

U.S. Participation in Sports and Outdoor Activities

Minimum days per year Participants # Males # Females
1 – exercise walking 19,770 7,394 12,375
2 – exercise with equipment 11,353 6,441 4,912
3 – fishing-freshwater 10,770 8,043 2,727
4 – bowling 7,350 3,741 3,609
5 – bicycle riding 7,116 4,653 2,464
6 – basketball 6,688 5,301 1,387
7 – camping, overnight 6,521 3,555 2,967
8 – billiards/pool 6,482 4,505 1,977
9 – in-line skating 5,820 3,530 2,290
10 – softball 5,541 2,647 2,894
11 – volleyball 5,587 2,284 3,304
12 – aerobic exercise 5,337 1,211 4,126
13 – work-out at club 5,297 2,874 2,423
14 – running/jogging 4,588 3,032 1,556
15 – golf 4,557 3,483 1,074
16 – hunting with firearms 4,355 3,756 600

Unfortunately, more vigorous activities such as backpacking, calisthenics, football, hiking, racquetball, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, soccer, step aerobics, swimming, and tennis have far fewer participants.

If you’re already exercising regularly, good. If you haven’t, it doesn’t make sense for you to stay in this mode for too long. Since walking is the easiest to initiate and yields great benefits, why not start this evening?

A Different Kind of Play

In organizations throughout the U.S., dress down days are becoming popular. At the National Rehabilitation Hospital, for example, one day of the month, employees are allowed to dress down. This is usually on a Friday. Everyone agrees it’s a great tension reliever. You get to save on dry cleaning bills, and see your fellow workers in a different light. Many people are able to work at a more relaxed pace, because they’re wearing the kinds of clothes they prefer to be working in. (If you’re the head of your department, or can initiate such procedures, you might be doing everyone a favor.)

The National Rehabilitation Hospital also allows costumes to be worn on October 31, Halloween, and encourages employees to wear red or black on April 15th depending on whether they’re getting a refund or paying more taxes to the U.S. government. When the program was first initiated, administration officials were concerned about whether the general decorum and professionalism of the staff would deteriorate on dress down day. After all, these are health care professionals serving patients.

Happily, as it turned out, the patients in the hospital appeared to enjoy these days as much as the staff did. Managers found no reduction in productivity. Paul Rao, Ph.D., at the American Speech-Language Hearing Association says that initiating such dress down days is one of the ways of “getting off the worst stress list.”

If you aren’t fortunate to work at a place that offers dress down days, take heart! You still can reduce your stress level and perform more efficiently and effectively on the job. Schedule some “play time” each day. The exercise not only will make you feel better, but it will make you work better, too.

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®," is a preeminent time management authority, has written 65 mainstream books, and is an electrifying professional speaker, making 886 presentations to clients such as Lockheed Martin, Eckerd, Kaiser Permanente, IBM, American Express, Lufthansa, Swissotel, Re/Max, USAA, Worthington Steel, and the World Bank. Jeff is Executive Director of the Breathing Space Institute and the author of books such as:
  • Simpler Living (Skyhorse Publishing)
  • Dial It Down--Live it Up (Sourcebooks)
  • The 60 Second Innovator (Adams Media)
  • Breathing Space (CreateSpace)
  • Accomplishing Your Goals (Smart Guide Publications)
Jeff is the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues and has been widely quoted in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, USA Today, Businessweek, Forbes, and Fortune. Cited by Sharing Ideas Magazine as a "Consummate Speaker," Jeff believes that career professionals today in all industries have a responsibility to achieve their own sense of work-life balance, and he supports that quest through his website

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