The positive effects of exercise on work performance span far and wide. In addition to sharpening mental performance, regular physical activity improves time-management skills, which in turn improve your ability to meet deadlines.
Studies indicate that our mental firepower is directly linked to our physical regimen. And nowhere are the implications more relevant than to our performance at work. Consider the following cognitive benefits, all of which you can expect as a result of incorporating regular exercise into your routine:
- Improved concentration
- Sharper memory
- Faster learning
- Prolonged mental stamina
- Enhanced creativity
- Lower stress
Exercise has also been shown to elevate mood, which has serious implications for workplace performance.
There is also evidence suggesting that exercise during regular work hours may boost performance.
Instead of viewing exercise as something we do for ourselves—a personal indulgence that takes us away from our work—it’s time we started considering physical activity as part of the work itself. The alternative, which involves processing information more slowly, forgetting more often, and getting easily frustrated, makes us less effective at our jobs and harder to get along with for our colleagues.
How do you successfully incorporate exercise into your routine?
Identify a physical activity you actually like.
There are many ways to work out other than boring yourself senseless on a treadmill. Find a physical activity you can look forward to doing, like swimming. You are far more likely to stick with an activity if you genuinely enjoy doing it. Recent studies also suggest that how we feel while exercising can influence the degree to which it ultimately benefits our health. When we view exercise as something we do for fun, we’re better at resisting unhealthy foods afterwards. But when the same physical activity is perceived as a chore, we have a much harder time saying no to fattening foods, presumably because we’ve used up all of our willpower exercising.
Invest in improving your performance.
Instead of settling for “getting some exercise,” focus on mastering an activity instead.
Regardless of how you go about incorporating exercise into your routine, reframing it as part of your job makes it a lot easier to make time for it. Remember, you’re not abandoning work. On the contrary: You’re ensuring that the hours you put in have value.
Although it might seem contradictory, exercising can actually give you more energy in the workplace, helping you avoid the post-lunch crash. It also potentially improves your ability to act as a team player, an essential element to work productivity. Past research findings indicate that well-exercised employees are less likely to lose their temper with others. In 2008, a study from the University of Bristol noted that workers who exercised took 25 percent less unscheduled breaks than those who didn’t. Similarly, the Journal of Exercise Physiology reports that employees who follow a fitness program exhibit a 22 percent decrease in absenteeism.
So the next time you have some spare time during lunch hour, get a swim!
Exercise = Better Work Performance
Assistant Registrar, Department of Human Resource