Falling asleep in front of the computer screen? Creativity crashing by 3pm in the office? The trick to becoming more productive may be to ditch the cubicle and hit the gym. Studies suggest a midday workout can help productivity skyrocket (and even boost job satisfaction!), so we can quickly gain back those hours lost in gym-land.
We Can Work It Out — The Takeaway
Photo by Ben Draper
Don’t just live for lunch breaks. Scientists have found that fitting in some fitness can increase work stamina. In one study, a third of participants who devoted two and a half hours a week to exercise during work hours reported maintaining or increasing productivity (even though they spent less time at the office) Employee self-rated productivity and objective organizational production levels: effects of worksite health interventions involving reduced work hours and physical exercise. Von Thiele Schwarz, U, Hasson, H. Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2011 Aug;53(8):838-44.. And other research suggests regular, low intensity exercise (like yoga or walking on an inclined treadmill) could dramatically reduce sleepiness and amp up energy— no Red Bull necessary A randomized controlled trial of the effect of aerobic exercise training on feelings of energy and fatigue in sedentary young adults with persistent fatigue. Puetz, T.W. Flowers, S.S., O’Connor, P.J. Department of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 2008;77(3):167-74. Epub 2008 Feb 14..
Need to think outside the box? Moderate cardio exercise has been shown to deliver a two-hour creativity boost immediately following that workout session. And ramping up the intensity (think: treadmill intervals or a CrossFit WOD) can sharpen the brain without the books: One study found a five to 10 percent improvement in cognitive function for those who hit the gym Cognitive function during acute exercise: a test of the transient hypofrontality theory. Del Giorno, J.M., Hall, E.E., O’Leary, K.C., et al. Department of Exercise Science, Elon University, Elon, NC. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 2010 Jun;32(3):312-23.. Finish the workout off with some stability-promoting core exercises like planks, and plenty of stretching and foam rolling for a pain-free transition back to that desk.
But before lacing up, the super-stressed should take heed. Researchers have found that high levels of stress combined with working out could lead to significant loss in the productivity department. On the other hand, less-stressed workers (what’s their secret?!) who exercised regularly experienced less productivity decline Stress and workplace productivity loss in the Heart of New Ulm project. VanWormer, J.J., Fyfe-Johnson, A.L., Boucher, J.L., et al. Epidemiology Research Center, Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, Marshfield, WI. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2011 Oct;53(10):1106-9.. No harm there!
And while experts are still on the fence about the best time to workout, there’s still this physiological fun fact. Body temperature goes up a few degrees midday, warming muscles and potentially enhancing workout performance Thermogenic alterations in the woman. II. Basal body, afternoon, and bedtime temperatures. Zuspan, K.J., Zuspan, F.P. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1974 Oct 15;120(4):441-5.. Looks like the secret weapon to a great workday and workout may be right around lunchtime. And for those who don’t have more than half an hour to break free, it never hurts to ask!
Squeeze in a midday workout to help increase productivity, energy, and creativity.