Everyone knows the benefits of exercise to health.
It plays a key part in maintaining healthy lungs, heart, and other bodily systems and in managing your weight.
But did you know that exercise can also improve your work productivity?
Not convinced yet? Below are some of the reasons how exercise can help you become more productive at work.
1. Exercise Improves Concentration
When you exercise, not only are you feeding your muscles but also feeding your brain.
It keeps your glucose, blood, and oxygen levels high – all these are needed so your brain can focus more on tasks and concentrate better.
Additionally, exercise has been shown to stimulate the growth of new connections in the brain cells and stimulate brain plasticity.
And when you are focused, it’s easier to set deadlines and stick to them as well as keep your tasks manageable.
2. Exercise Lowers the Effects of Stress
While small doses of stress are good for you as they can tune up the brain, too much of it takes a toll on your body.
You may experience emotional symptoms of stress (becoming moody, easily agitated, low self-esteem, having difficulty relaxing), physical symptoms (low energy, upset stomach, headaches, tense muscles), and cognitive symptoms (constant worrying, inability to focus, racing thoughts).
With exercise, it lowers the negative effects of stress by providing relief to your body while imitating the effects of stress: fight or flight response. It then helps your body practice working through those effects. Moreover, your sleep quality improves and you wake up ready to tackle another workday.
3. Exercise Combats Fatigue
It may seem counterintuitive to work out when you are suffering from fatigue, but regular exercise is proven to increase energy levels and fight fatigue.
Exercise boosts endorphins, making you feel more energized and increasing oxygen levels in the blood.
A moderate aerobic exercise, for instance, can increase deep sleep or slow-wave sleep that a person gets. As a result, the body and brain rejuvenate and lead to less fatigue.
4. Exercise Increases Your Energy
The body gets a boost from a workout-induced increase in hormones that make you more energized.
Specifically, each time you push your body a bit harder than your last exercise, your body recovers and increases your energy capacity.
5. Exercise Gives You a Mood Boost
Exercise can keep the blues at bay. And when you are in a good mood, you tend to produce better work and have a more optimistic outlook.
As a result, you lead better lives, have more friends, tend to be more successful, and are healthier.
6. Exercise Improves Your Time-Management
Starting your day with a walk, a swim, or any form of exercise can improve your time-management skills. Even those who practice Tai-Chi or yoga are well-aware of the connection between their mind and body.
In short, any form of exercise can make you feel more alert and in control. It makes you disciplined.
7. Exercise Enhances Your Creativity
Do you want to be more innovative or come up with new ideas? Try taking a walk.
A study has demonstrated that there is a direct link between our creative minds and our physical selves and that regular exercise can enhance our creativity.
Another research finds that active individuals come up with better and more ideas during tests of inventiveness compared to people who maintain relatively sedentary lifestyles.
And because regular exercise means producing new brain cells, it tends to sharpen one’s abilities to remember and reason.
8. Exercise Prolongs Your Mental Stamina
You can build up your mental stamina with exercise. As you feel more energetic throughout the day and sleep better at night, you feel more positive about yourself and your life.
No matter your fitness level or age, exercise can help you build stronger resilience. Because of it, you can cope with emotional and mental challenges in life in a healthy way.
9. Exercise Makes Your Memory Sharper
Exercise helps increase the size of the area in the brain involved in learning and memory. It boosts your thinking skills and memory both directly and indirectly.
It directly affects the body by stimulating physiological changes, like reducing inflammation and resistance, along with the production of growth factors. These include the growth of new blood vessels in the brain as well as survival, abundance, and overall health of the new brain cells.
Many studies likewise suggested that exercise makes memory sharper by improving sleep and mood and by reducing anxiety and stress. Problems in these areas often contribute to or cause cognitive impairment.
Best Exercises for Productivity
If you take a look at many successful people’s routines, you’ll find that they have one thing in common: they do some form of exercise.
And many prefer the simplest way of exercising: walking outdoors in the fresh air. It might be every morning to also get the health benefits of sunlight or at the end of their work hours.
Using an elliptical machine at home or in a local gym can also help reach your fitness goals. Such a low-impact machine helps you burn a lot of calories (about 270–400 calories) in just 30 minutes and can already serve as both an upper body and lower body workout.
Low-Intensity Aerobic Exercise
Exercise does not have to be intense to be effective. Low-intensity aerobic exercises, such as jogging, rowing, swimming, and step aerobics, target the heart rate zone.
These forms of exercise can help improve your overall fitness and health in a more accessible and gentler way. As a result, it increases your mental acuity and more productive hours at work.
No wonder why some companies have taken the time to implement “sit less, move more” interventions, like offering employees time to exercise during work hours or using standing desks, to improve their work productivity.
In the midst of a hectic day, yoga allows you to practice mindfulness that can lead to more rational thinking when at work or making business decisions.
Research published in the journal Physiological Science even found that just 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation, like the concentration on breathing, reduced the tendency of a phenomenon called sunk-cost bias.
Such a phenomenon describes people’s tendency to still follow through with an endeavor if we have already invested money, effort, and time into it. That usually means that we go against evidence, showing that the endeavor is no longer the best decision.
Participants in the said study used meditation to focus on the future temporarily so they can make decisions based on the current moment.
Moreover, practicing yoga, in general, helps you relax in your work environment. A 2012 research found that workers who participated in both mindfulness programs and yoga at work feel less stressed in their 9 am to 5 pm work compared to those who did not participate in yoga.
But yoga instructions emphasize that the effect of yoga is more gradual. It’s not like you do yoga one day and then all of a sudden your mind and productivity improve.
In a way, it makes you feel calmer gradually and you see things differently. You realize you are more in control of your reactions like you don’t curse right away when a faulty printer breaks before your meeting.
Strength Training Exercises
Increased productivity is also observed among people who do strength training exercises, like climbing stairs, cycling, hill walking, lifting weights, heavy gardening, working with resistance bands, push-ups, squats, and sit-ups.
One way that strength training exercises can help boost productivity is through alertness. When you train, you also increase the blood flow to the brain and this sharpens your awareness. It makes you more ready to handle your next big project.
Since you have more energy as your body adapts to the workout, you feel more awake at work and you feel you are on top of your game. Moreover, it will assure that you do your work to the best of your ability and correctly.
Strength training also goes a long way in terms of physical activity. It is designed to make you stronger as you perform daily tasks, burns calories more efficiently, decreases your risk of falls, helps you appear leaner, improves your heart health, lowers your risk of injury, boosts your self-esteem (and physical self-worth), and promotes greater flexibility and mobility.
A review of 16 studies showed a significant link between better resistance training and better physical functioning, mental health, pain management, vitality, and general health.
The evidence is compelling. A habit of regular exercise can help you become mentally sharp throughout your life and not just at work.
So, stop making excuses. Invest in exercise today and you will always come back at anything in life with more productive hours! And when you are healthy and happy, you exude self-confidence and positivity – two qualities that could help you clinch that job promotion you’ve been waiting for!
Nathan Lloyd is a personal fitness coach and trainer with a Master’s degree in Health and Exercise Science. He is passionate about helping his clients become the happiest and healthiest version of themselves.
When he’s not coaching clients online or in person at ONE Boulder Fitness Gym, he writes about his favorite gym equipment at ExpertFitness.org.