Working out for work: How exercise improves work performance

When many of us think of exercise, the physical benefits such as increased strength and stamina come to mind. What we may be overlooking is the way exercise can benefit your mind, and thus improve your performance and productivity at work.

A study by Leeds Metropolitan University, which examined the influence of exercise on office workers, found employees reported better mood and work performance. Workers manage their time more effectively, being more productive, having smoother interactions with their colleagues and going home feeling more satisfied at the end of the day on the days that they exercised.
Exercise increases blood flow to all areas of the body, including the brain, which can help you feel more alert and aware. Working out also gives you an energy boost, helping you feel more awake at work – especially if you exercise in the morning or during the workday. Studies show that a workout gives your brain an immediate boost, improving your ability to focus over the two to three hours following.

A regular exercise regimen improves your overall physical health – often reducing the number of sick days you need to take and reducing the chances that you will be injured at work. It also has mental health benefits, reducing anxiety and depression. This is due to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is released during exercise. Serotonin helps your body deal with stress – both the physical kind and the mental – which can be common at work. Additional serotonin is why many report feeling calmer and more alert after exercise.

According to Harvard research, exercise also influences the brain-derived neurotrophic factor – a substance that boosts neuron growth and strengthens connections in the brain. This means those who exercise regularly have stronger, healthier and better-connected brains.

Those who exercise have a competitive edge at work: improved concentration, a sharper memory, faster learning, improved mental stamina, and enhanced creativity. So it should come as no surprise that from Anna Wintour’s daily 6am tennis games to Barack Obama’s 45 minutes of exercise six days a week, many powerful people make time to work out. Maybe it’s time we stopped viewed exercise as a luxury or personal indulgence and saw it as an investment in ourselves, our health and our work.

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