There is an ongoing debate, in certain trading circles, as to whether a trader should focus more time on brain exercises or on physical exercise. But, why not both? The two sides in this ‘debate’ at least agree that if you have the time to focus on both, your trading performance will benefit. The final word, however, might just be that physical exercise keeps your brain sharp, too.
If you’re not a Special Ops soldier, then it’s likely that you don’t have a job that requires a high level of physical activity combined with simultaneous high-level brain function. Trading clearly requires little or no physical activity. So, when your body starts to become lethargic, from slumping in a chair all day and focusing your eyes on a computer screen, your brain can start to shut down as well.
Studies claim that exercise keeps the mind sharp. For traders this is essential: A sharp mind allows us to detect patterns in trading, as well as pick up quickly on subtle market shifts before others do.
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Exercise: It’s More Relevant Than You Think
Short rounds of aerobics, strength exercises and stretching, when you have time during work hours, can help improve fitness levels and heart health.
Here’s where it helps most: STRESS.
Due to the nature of the work, traders are exposed to high levels of stress. Too much stress both hinders and harms performance. If the pressure gets too high, decision-making takes a hit. And, so does your bank account.
Frequent exercise (you don’t have to sweat buckets), keeps you mentally and physically alert. It keeps your adrenaline pumping and gives you ammunition to control stress.
And, there’s an emotional aspect, as well. A healthy lifestyle that includes physical exercise gives you more stamina, strengthens your immune system and typically gives you a better emotional balance. As you probably well know, emotion is the trader’s worst enemy. Exercise can be even more effective than drug-store remedies for countering depression and anxiety.
So, you don’t have a home gym? No Worries
We realize that not everyone has a gym nearby, but, you don’t need one. Everything you need is right in front of you, for the most part and speed is the key. Rapid power exercises, with short breaks in between ‘sets,’ will set you on the course of success.
Do it Yourself: A Trader’s Routine That You Can Do Anywhere (from Topyaps, the best collection of ‘office’ exercises we’ve found, with a few others thrown in)
- The Wall (Street) Sit
Build strength and endurance with Wall Sits. Standing with your back against the wall, bend the knees and slide your back down the wall until the thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold position for 30-60 seconds.
- The Lunch Break Hammy
A standing leg curl to strengthen the hamstrings. Stand behind your chair, holding on to the chair for support. Slowly extend one foot backwards, bringing your heel to the top of your thigh. Lower and repeat.
(Image courtesy of http://topyaps.com/6-exercise-moves-can-practice-office)
- The Stapler Curl
You can sit or stand for this one. Take the stapler in one hand, with tyour palm facing upwards. Starting at the thighs, bend your elbow and curl your arm up towards the chest.
- The Fist Pump
Fist punch into the air, alternating arms. Continue for 60 seconds or more—repeatedly.
- The Desk Chair Swivel
Sitting upright and with your feet hovering over the floor. Hold the edge of your desk with your fingers and thumb. Next, use your core to swivel the chair from side to side. Swish back and forth for 15 rounds. This is brilliant for the love handles that you are bound to get, if you’re stuck to your chair all day.
- Raise the roof
Marching in place, push toward the ceiling with your palms up and thumbs almost touching your shoulders. Add some weight by holding water bottles, or something similar (make sure the weight is equal in both hands).
- The Hulk
With your elbows bent and fists together in front of you, move your arms back like wings, while marching in place.
If you work in an office space that is ‘public,’ you might want to stick to the more subtle exercises on this list, thus avoiding an embarrassing appearance on YouTube. And, if you don’t have any alternative in a public office space, try to get a standing desk and do subtle exercises. Get out, whenever you can, to take a brisk walk—even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Some recent studies are showing that those who sit for more than six hours of their leisure time each day had a 20% higher death rate than those who sit for three hours or less.
The studies concluded that excessive sitting literally shortens a person’s life by several years. It showed that those who sat for 23 or more hours a week had a 64% greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours per week or less.
Nowadays, the average office worker spends 5 hours and 41 minutes sitting each day at his or her desk. Research shows that standing for an afternoon has been shown to burn 170 more calories than an equal amount of sitting. Also, standing for 180 minutes after lunch reduced the blood sugar spike by 43%, compared to sitting for the same amount of time.
And, when it comes to exercise, more recent research suggests that the recommended 30 minutes of cardio, a couple times per week, may not undo the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle. Therefore, experts are trying to find the perfect exercise that would provide a full mental and physical workout. The goal is to achieve a positive, high energy state—a nirvana state in which we experience the highest levels of motivation, enthusiasm and happiness.
The Power of the Plank
If we get rid of all the office exercise gimmicks and forego the stapler and the desk chair, there is nothing—absolutely nothing—better than a plank. All you need is a floor and one free minute.
If you don’t already know what planking is, first we’ll show you a few examples:
(Courtesy of: http://body-scuplting.wonderhowto.com/how-to/improve-your-planking-with-plank-exercise-425721/)
(No need to undress, though, while you’re trading).
You can plank anywhere (yes, it’s a craze right now to see who can plank in the most unusual place):
(Courtesy of: https://jamieonline.wordpress.com/tag/planking/)
(Courtesty of: http://www.imvenusdesign.com/social-issue/2015/1/1/planking-not-pranking)
What’s great about planking—aside from its logistical flexibility—is that it can make you sweat in just 30 seconds. Holding every muscle in your body suspended and tight, for even under a minute, is more of a workout than 30 minutes at the gym. It’s great for muscle tone, for burning fat and for getting your thoughts straight.
We highly recommend the “Plank-and-Trade.” Plank all day long, for 30-60 seconds, after each trading pattern you detect, each market change you pick out and each trade that you make. Set yourself a clear and ambitious Plank-and-Trade schedule and you’ll find it could change your life—and you’ll probably plank all the way to the bank.
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