You know you should exercise. What you might not know is that you need to this at work, or – even better -- during work. Our best intentions can easily fall by the wayside when they meet the realities of a packed schedule, bad weather and a comfortable couch.
How about skipping that trip to the gym and exercising right at the office instead. Not only does working out at work save you time (and help you avoid the temptations of your living room), it’s also a great way to boost your professional performance, according to recent research out Leeds Metropolitan University and Bristol University.
Exercise is hugely beneficial, but only short term.
While lots of studies compare the average level of health, anxiety, creativity and productivity of people who exercise versus those that don’t, this study led by Dr. J.C. Coulson focused on measuring how increased levels of activity affected the same individual. If you moved more, how did that change how you felt and performed?
The research team found that exercise changes our attitude towards our work, our team, and even ourselves. It makes us more positive and more productive by improving our focus and ability to manage our time and tasks efficiently. It also makes people more cheerful and resilient in the face of stress.
In short, exercise has remarkable benefits, but only in the short term. Working out caused an immediate spike in subjects’ mental and physical health, but the next day they were basically back to square one. If you want to get the productivity-boosting benefits of working out, in other words, you should leave as small a gap as possible between climbing off the treadmill or stationary bike and getting back to work. That’s reason one to consider working up a sweat while you’re actually at the office.
Exercise boosts teamwork.
The mood-boosting effects of exercise aren’t just on the individual level. Whole teams can feel the benefits of being more active during the workday, the study shows. On days when they exercised, subjects felt more tolerant and positive towards colleagues. Unsurprisingly, workplace relationships improved. “This implies that exercising at work has a key morale-building effect,” claim the researchers.
Adding a bit of exercise to the workday had a particularly positive effect on employees suffering from anxiety and depression, two conditions that are clearly hugely detrimental to professional performance. But even for those not struggling with any mental health issues, the impact of exercise on mood was profound. And happy employees, it turns out, are productive employees. “Emotional affect may predict job performance more than job satisfaction,” the researchers conclude.
You don’t have to train for a triathlon.
But I don’t want to go through the hassle of changing into my workout gear and getting all sweaty at work, you might object. Not to worry. You don’t need to prepare for a triathlon to get the benefits of working out at work. Even something as simple as going out for a short walk could be an effective performance booster. Danish researcher Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani has shown that a 30-minute lunchtime walk can improve enthusiasm and relaxation, and relieve nervousness.
You might not even need to leave your desk.
In fact, according to another study, you might not even have to leave your desk to experience the benefits of working out at work. The yearlong experiment introduced treadmill workstations at a financial services company, so that participants were able to choose between a standard desk-and-chair arrangement or working while walking at a modest speed of zero to two miles per hour.
The new arrangement took some getting used to -- performance initially fell while employees adjusted to the new setup -- but then amazing things started happening. Participants’ work performance improved by almost any measure. Both the quality and quantity of their output went up, their interactions with co-workers improved, even their self-rating of their work, as well as the ratings of their supervisors, increased significantly.
On-site exercise even helps those who work on their feet.
Is on-site exercise only for those with sedentary jobs who sit all day? Not at all, according to science. Even those like cashiers, hair stylists, and nurses who spend most of their time on their feet can benefit from adding a few targeted exercises into their work routines. The right combination of stretches and activities can help prevent sore feet, aching backs, and injuries caused by repetitive movements.
That’s why “the post office and companies like FedEx hire athletic trainers to develop exercise routines for employees, give them pointers on what to eat and pinpoint ergonomic risks. (For example, athletic trainers with degrees in biomechanics and kinesiology watch delivery people lift boxes to correct their form.),” reports the New York Times.
What’s the bottom line of all this science? Working out while you’re actually at work, not only has huge benefits for productivity, collaboration, and mood, but is also dead simple to implement.