AbleToTrain by Willing & Able

Exercise boosts workplace productivity

Afternoon slumps that even espresso can’t cure, distracting “water cooler” talks you can’t help but join, ridiculously uncomfortable office seats, and not a single minute of silence.

It’s no surprise that the average worker is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes out of every eight-hour shift, or 36% of the time.

These data and research snippets demonstrate unequivocally that exercise can boost work productivity (as if you needed another reason to hit the gym and pump iron!).

Productivity and exercise

Beyond the physical benefits, regular exercise improves the affective (mood and attitude) and cognitive (memory and focus) processes.

Exercising during the workday can improve your time management abilities and daily finished workload by an astounding 72 percent.

Low-intensity exercise (such as a 30-minute cycling session) is more beneficial than high-intensity options for increasing on-the-clock productivity (like sprints).

Walking can help you overcome creative lulls, such as those associated with writer’s block or when attempting to solve a hard problem. According to studies, when people stood up and moved, their creativity increased by 81 percent, 88 percent, and 100 percent!

How exercise enhances mood

If you’ve ever been late for work, been trapped behind a tractor-trailer procession, spilt your coffee on your lap, or forgotten an important deadline the day before, you know how this feels.

Exercise’s cognitive advantages

The cognitive benefits of physical activity go hand in hand with the mood-boosting effects of physical activity, especially in the workplace.

This is because physical activity is beneficial:

  • Increase blood flow to the brain.

  • Reduce the flow of stress hormones (like cortisol)

  • Thicken the cerebral cortex, which is in charge of thinking processes and memory.

  • Encourage the release of growth factors to help brain cell health.

  • Reduce the risk of diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

How to remain active at work (or at your desk!)

There are hundreds of lists online that outline how to stay fit at work.

However, it appears that far too many of these “advice” are geared toward the remote labor. (In the usual workplace atmosphere, ten push-ups per hour or hourly five-minute walk breaks don’t exactly garner you respect.)

Here’s how you can stay active at work:

  • Find reasons to walk further (or at all). Use the remote copier or fax machine, for example, or deliver communications the old-fashioned way – in person.

  • You can ride your bike or walk to work. Of course, disregard this advise if getting on the freeway, avoiding peak hour traffic, or walking ten kilometers each way is required.

  • Attempt a new desk. Inquire with your manager about using a stand-up desk, under-desk bike, or even an exercise ball instead!

  • Pace. Pace whenever you’re on hold, waiting for a meeting to begin, or waiting in line for the microwave in the break room! (However, this may make your coworkers nervous.)

  • Use your breaks to get some exercise. Stretch, walk around the building, go to the on-campus gym, climb a few flights of stairs, take 500 steps, whatever it takes!

You don’t have the luxury of having 30 or 60-minute blocks of time to spend to a thorough workout unless you use your dining room table as your “office” or lead a freelance lifestyle.

Take each opportunity you get to stand up and move!