After going through years of education and feeling increasing pressure to become independent wage earners (and start paying off some of that student debt), it’s no wonder that we are excited to land that first job. Entering a new environment, interacting with new people, and facing new challenges—all of these experiences can shake up our lives in a good way. This change leads to growth.
Yet amid all the excitement and changes that go with settling into the job, many new hires don’t notice the drop-off in physical activity. Combined with their newfound spending power, young employees could start to decline slowly in terms of fitness. Years from now, when you look back at your high school senior portraits taken by a photographer, do you really want to feel regret at not being able to stay in shape? Here are some things you can do to maintain reasonable fitness despite entering the busy world of full-time employment.
Maintain a reasonable baseline
When the typically sedentary routines associated with work start to replace your old lifestyle, you may not even notice the loss of physical activity. And that realization comes as a jolt to some people. They seek to jump-start their old routines, attempting to regain their former fitness in a hurry.
But when fitness levels have dropped, trying to pick up from where you left off is going to be difficult. Going from practically a standstill to becoming a gym rat or weekend warrior is simply not sustainable for most people. If you make a big commitment, but can’t sustain it, you don’t really develop the right habits. Miss a gym session or two, and you tend to miss the rest, effectively conceding defeat.
Behavioral scientist Dr. BJ Fogg recommends using an approach based around tiny habits to build and sustain momentum. Set yourself a minimum achievable target for physical activity each day. It could be four minutes on a stationary bike or one brisk walk around your block; any goal that you can be certain of meeting every day, no matter what. Then allow yourself to exceed this goal whenever you have the time and energy.
In this way, even on your busiest days, you’ll maintain a baseline of activity. Some days, you’ll exceed that. And in the overall picture, you’ll make it a regular practice and eventually integrate more activity into your lifestyle.
Bring back the fun
Students of any age will get plenty of exercise. Some of it is mandated – PE classes, or the constant walking across campus grounds, for instance. But often, they engage in a physical activity simply for the fun of it. Young kids love to explore the outdoors and play. Many students get into sports as an extracurricular activity. These forms of exercise often have a social component, with friends bringing more fun to the picture.
When you transition out of the school environment, a lot of the fun can get lost along the way. Child-friendly spaces, even in big cities, are specifically designed to include nature and playful elements. Graduation results in a parting of ways for most students, and the friends who improved the social factor of exercise are no longer around to encourage activity. As your routine becomes centered in the functional setting of the office, those elements simply disappear from your life.
Bring some fun back into your exercise plan. Sometimes, this can mean doing something you truly enjoy – strolling through a park instead of walking on a treadmill. It can also mean making new friends at work and getting them to join you or joining them on their exercise routines.
Inject more activity into each day
A busy work schedule and the trappings that go with becoming an independent adult may only give you so much wiggle room in which to incorporate exercise. In that case, you can still sustain momentum and stay fit if you make an effort to inject physical activity into different aspects of your day.
When you’re headed out on the next errand run, or bracing for the daily commute, consider if you might be able to walk or ride a bike. If you drive, try parking your car further away from your destination. Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work. And use your work breaks to move about instead of remaining seated at your desk.
Shifting away from the active lifestyle (and faster metabolism) of your youth, towards the more stress-filled, unhealthy, and sedentary world of the typical workplace, can bring down your physical fitness before you know it. Using these steps, you can keep some momentum going and make it easier to stay fit and even regain or exceed your former level in due time.