How 10,000 Steps a Day Can Save Your Relationships
Spring 2018 | By Nicole Dudenhoefer ’17
Stress at work can not only interfere with your performance on the job, but also at home, straining relationships with your family.
“Research shows employees who are mistreated at work are likely to engage in similar behaviors at home,” says UCF Associate Professor of Management Shannon Taylor, who teamed up with researchers from Illinois and Wisconsin universities for a recent study. “If [employees have] been belittled or insulted by a supervisor, they tend to vent their frustration on members of their household. Our study shows that happens because they’re too tired to regulate their behavior.”
While it can be difficult to control your boss’s behavior, the study found that walking more than 10,000 steps a day or swimming for an hour can help you leave stress behind — rather than take it out on your family.
Here’s how: Exercise reduces stress and improves physiological health by triggering antidepressant hormones and increasing endorphin secretion, Taylor says. These bodily changes cause elevated moods and help to reduce negative thoughts, which can help you have more positive experiences at work and home.
Exercise also considerably reduces sleep difficulties, as the study results showed that people who engage in 150 minutes of physical activity on a weekly basis can improve their sleep quality by 65 percent.
To maximize exercise’s ability to reduce stress, Taylor recommends burning at least 600 calories a day through physical activity.
“The findings are particularly compelling given recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association to walk between 8,000 and 10,000 steps per day,” Taylor says. “I also think the study gives us a new perspective on the importance of getting an adequate amount of sleep and exercise. It’s not just good for you, it’s good for your spouse too.”
Based on his findings, we asked Taylor for five tips to make exercise part of your daily routine.
Make Physical Activity a Priority
When facing major deadlines and overwhelming to-do lists, exercise is often one of the first activities we choose to skip. The most important strategy to reduce stress, however, is to make exercise a consistent, integrated habit in your life, not just an activity you do from time to time. To maximize exercise’s ability to reduce stress, Taylor recommends burning at least 600 calories a day through physical activity.“Our workloads might be really heavy sometimes, but exercise can improve the quality of our life and extend our life spans.”
Broaden Your Concept of Exercise
Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym and running on the treadmill or lifting weights. Any activity that requires physical effort can make a difference in improving your health and reducing stress. Some household chores, like cleaning or putting away groceries, require the same amount of effort as moderate-intensity exercise.“You don’t have to run a marathon to make a difference. Everyday activities like gardening, pushing a lawnmower or fishing all count.”
Experiment with New Exercises
Whether you’re new to working out or have been doing it for years, there’s a big benefit to trying new forms of exercise. Experimenting with workouts helps keep you interested and active.“Overall, if you’re just kind of feeling blah, if you’re not feeling like working out today or this week, try something else.”
Enlist Others for Collaborative Workouts
Having a workout partner helps in boosting performance, motivation and commitment to exercise. However, you should choose activities that require you to work with others, rather than competing against or comparing your performance against theirs. “We’re far more likely to stick with an exercise regimen when other people depend on our participation.”
Enjoy your Activity
When using exercise to reduce stress, it’s important to choose activities that you enjoy. However you choose to get active, it should be an outlet, not an obligation.“Just do whatever you’ll actually do because lots of research on motivation shows that we’re more likely to stick with things when we find them enjoyable.”