Updated: Jan 21
Exercise is directly linked to your performance at work. In fact, regular workouts kick up your mental capacity and thus, increase your productive work hours. Not only that, working out even makes you a generally nicer human being.
Everyone skips the gym from time to time – that’s normal. Other aspects of life are already stressful enough. Work. Personal projects. University (if you're still studying). And a social life. With all these obligations, it's hard to motivate oneself to put aside another an hour or so every day to exhaust one's body. Though, should you do it nonetheless? Hell yes!
🧠 Exercise for mental clarity
We’re all well aware of the physical benefits of exercise – lower blood pressure, a healthier heart and a more attractive body. They're the reason why most people start working out in the first place. But there’s another dimension: Several studies indicate that regular exercise also impacts the way we think. To be more particular, exercise is linked to all of the following mental benefits:
Working out has also been shown to elevate people’s mood – which seriously impacts workplace performance because almost every job requires cooperation and interpersonal connection. If you’re in a better mood, you’re better able to deal with people and therefore better at collaborating and leading. Sounds like a path to more success? Well, it is.
📇 Exercising around work hours?
To look a bit further, there’s evidence suggesting that exercise during and around work hours significantly impacts employees’ overall work performance.
[...] on days when employees visited the gym, they managed their time more effectively, worked more productively and had smoother interactions with their colleagues.
For example, a study by Leeds Metropolitan University examined the influence of daytime exercise among more than 200 office workers with access to a gym. What they found is that on days when employees visited the gym, they managed their time more effectively, worked more productively and had smoother interactions with their colleagues. And even more importantly: They went home feeling more satisfied. If that doesn’t make a huge difference, only the universe knows what does.
Leadership strategist Victor Lipman particularly promotes midday exercise as it’s easiest to fit into the average workday. “Over the course of my career - both as an employee and a manager – the best way I found to reduce stress and improve productivity was simple: to exercise at midday”, he writes in an article for Forbes. As logical as it might sound a lot of employers and employees are still sceptical about exercising during or around work hours. Though, from what we know today, it definitely seems like an excellent idea.
🧘🏻♀️ Become a better human being
It was already lightly touched on in the beginning – but regular exercise (in combination with a good night's sleep) helps people deal with negative emotions. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that people who burn more calories on a daily basis (by doing the equivalent of a long walk) are in better control of their emotions when interacting with peers than people who don’t.
Admittedly, finding time to work out and get a full eight hours of sleep each night can be difficult when work is piling up. Especially given the fact that stress negatively impacts one's quality sleep. But hold tight: Physical activity seems to counterbalance poor sleep to a certain degree. So even if you're tired exercise can help you become a nicer and happier person.
Certainly, exercise and sleep often seem to cut into one's productivity – they don't. In fact, science shows that it's the other way around. As scientist Larissa Barber said in an interview with Time magazine: “I would advise people to think of sleep and exercise from an investment perspective rather than another task on the to-do list. It may seem like more work upfront, but the boost in motivation and energy can help you avoid sinking deeper into workplace stress and productivity problems.”
🧗🏾♀️ How to get started, though?
Now, there’s one more question to answer: How to actually get into working out? Lots of times, exercising can seem like a chore rather than an enjoyable activity. Therefore, how actually to make exercise fun?
1. Find a physical activity you like.
Running on a treadmill, endlessly doing cardio or lifting weights in a sweaty room aren’t the only options for exercising. Try different activities and find one you can look forward to – climbing, tennis, swimming or dancing just to name a few. The odds of you sticking to the activity are way higher of you enjoy it.
2. Aim to improve your performance
Once you’ve established a stable exercise routine, don’t just settle for “getting some exercise”. Focus on becoming better, faster or strong each time you do it. Mastery goals, as psychologists call these goals, have been shown to improve persistence in various areas of life. So don’t settle for less and become an overall better human instead.
3. Become part of a group
The most common recommendation for every aspiring gym-goer is to find a workout partner. Workout partners keep each other accountable in a way that a single person almost never can. That’s because partners turn exercising into a fun social activity. They also make it a lot harder to back out on a scheduled exercise-session since you’d have to let someone else down.
🏋🏼♀️ Make exercise part of your job
Everybody wants to exercise more, though very few actually do it. What prevents us from getting started? For many, the answer is a lack of time. But let’s be real. What do we really mean when we say “I don’t have time”? Mostly, it's “I don’t consider it a priority”.
That’s why researching the benefits of exercising is so important. Because exercise eventually creates time. It enables us to remember more information, work more efficiently and get more things done. Yet, many perceive it as a luxury. Something optional if there’s time left.
“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.” – Ron Friedman
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