If you’ve got a lot on your plate at work with meetings, projects and deadlines, you might feel like you don’t have time to exercise regularly. It may seem easier to put exercise off for a time when you’re not so busy, so that you can focus on completing projects and meeting deadlines.
However, the times when you might be feeling stressed, burned out or depressed because of your heavy workload are usually the times when you would most benefit from getting active.
According to Harvard Business Review, how we perform at work is linked to exercise. It points out that regular activity can lead to improved concentration, sharper memory, faster learning and prolonged mental stamina. Exercise can also boost creativity at work and lower your stress levels, all of which will improve your mood and make you feel happier.
A study published in Psychology and Aging tested memory before and after exercise. It found that exercise is associated with what the study describes as ‘increased levels of high-arousal positive affect (HAP)’, and this was consistent in both younger and older adults who participated in the study. It concluded that exercise could hold important benefits for cognitive performance.
Exercising during work hours may also boost performance. A study from Leeds Metropolitan University examined daytime exercise among office workers who used a company gym. On days when employees visited the gym, they were more productive at work and had smoother interactions with colleagues than on non-gym days.
But you don’t have to go the gym and you don’t have to get too hot and sweaty to reap the benefits of getting active. Simply leaving your desk at lunchtime to go for a brisk walk or taking short breaks to walk around during the day will boost blood and oxygen flow to the brain, helping you to think more clearly and work more efficiently.
Here are some ideas for activity you can do at lunchtime or when you get a break:
• An ‘out and back’ short run – run to a certain point in ten or 15 minutes. Stop and turn around, then try to run back to the office (taking the same route) in a slightly faster time.
• Find a quiet spot and do ten minutes of stretching.
• Head for some outdoor space and do the following exercise circuit: jog on the spot or skip for 3-5 minutes, then do 15 squats, 15 press-ups, 15 jumping jacks, 15 tricep dips (use a sturdy chair or bench) and 15 abdominal crunches – have a minute’s rest and then repeat.
• Find an empty meeting room and do some yoga or meditation to calm your mind.
• Go for a leisurely walk in a nearby park or around your local area for 30 minutes.
Apart from boosting concentration and productivity, exercise is also a great way to solve problems. So if you’re stuck on how to complete a task, or how to prepare a presentation, take a short break and go for quick a walk. The oxygen and blood flow around the brain will help, and exercise will give you time away from your desk to think and solve problems.
Similarly, if you’re feeling depressed, exercise is also a great mood booster. According to the mental health charity, Mind, regular cardiovascular exercise like walking, running, swimming or cycling can be more beneficial for tackling mild to moderate depression than anti-depressants. It also recommends outdoor exercise for stimulating our senses and relieving stress from daily pressures.