Rarely do professionals tell us to get up and walk away. But today, that is exactly what we are telling you to do.
That’s right. We want you to get up and walk away. We want you to take a few minutes to stretch. We want you to move your body. Because this is the missing key to being more productive at work.
For years, health professionals have been spouting on about the benefits of exercise. We are well aware that exercise is essential for managing weight and maintaining our overall health (organs like our lungs and heart seem to like it).
We are even starting to hear more about the importance of incorporating exercise into our work days to become more productive at work. Employers start wellness programs, offer gym memberships, and hand out pedometers like Pez candies.
Up until now, all those efforts were entirely focused on enhancing fitness, losing weight, and improving health. Instead of thinking about how many pounds we’ll lose (which is important), let’s look at how our brain, energy, and engagement levels are enhanced by exercise and see how 5-10 minute exercises can make us more productive at work.
Employees at New Balance shoe company participated in a study related to productivity at work. After the four month trial period, 239 participants weighed in on their findings; 42% reported heightened engagement and concentration as a result of their increased level of physical activity at work.
A study at the University of Bristol reported similar findings. After exercising, participants returned to work feeling more tolerant of themselves and more forgiving of their colleagues. Additionally, they exhibited higher work performance, better time management and improved mental sharpness.
Moreover, a report in the Journal of Applied Physiology acknowledged exercise makes us feel happier, increases mental alertness, makes us smarter, helps us feel energized and stay more productive at work and at home.
As we age, our bodies produce fewer and fewer brain cells. Fortunately, exercise helps prevent this deterioration. Therefore, by the time active people reach their 50s and 60s, they have more brain cells than their sedentary co-workers. The fact that we have more brain cells dedicated to the task of completing a project is a pretty obvious indicator of increased productivity.
For those who haven’t reached middle-age yet, there are definite short-term advantages to exercise too. Exercise affects our mitochondria – our cell’s storehouse of power. The mitochondria produces a chemical called ATP that our bodies uses for energy. Exercise stimulates the development of new mitochondria. More mitochondria means more ATP. More ATP means more energy – both physically and mentally. Bam. There you have it – being more productive at work without spending more hours in front of your computer.
What Do I Need to Do to Be More Productive at Work?
You don’t need to run a marathon to see these results. A study at the University of Georgia found that, while there was a huge difference in levels of productivity between sedentary and active individuals, there was no difference between those who were moderately active and those who were involved in low-intensity workouts.
Here are some simple suggestions for incorporating movement and exercise into your work day and be more productive at work:
• Take the stairs. This is a technique that has been encouraged by weight loss hopefuls for years. However, the activity is just as beneficial for your brain as your waistline.
• Use the farthest break room, water fountain, bathroom, etc.
• Instead of sending emails, get up and walk to your colleague’s desk. Talk to him or her in person.
• Encourage your employer to host standing or walking meetings. You’ll notice an increase of active participation and sharing of ideas which will make everyone more productive.
• Replace your desk chair with an exercise ball. You’ll build core stabilizing muscles which will prevent lower back pain. More importantly, the constant shifting and attention to balance will keep your mind sharp. Consider getting a yoga ball base to prevent your “chair” from rolling across the office.
• Stand up. Just that simple movement can make a difference.
• Do some simple exercises at your desk. This article has some great suggestions.
• If your boss will go for it, ask for a standing desk. There are quite a few reasonably priced models. And most are adjustable. If you get tired of standing, you can lower it to normal height and sit on your exercise ball.
Give some of these suggestions a try. Then, come back and tell us how you fared.
Did you feel more productive at work? Happier? More enthusiastic about your job?
Jessica Velasco is a freelance writer. She needs to constantly remind herself to get up and move around. One of Jessica’s clients, Trim Nutrition, sells vitamin injections and focuses on improving people’s wellness and quality of life.