Most people think of exercise as a means to lose weight and improve health. However, it’s the last of these two benefits — health — that can profoundly improve your productivity and creativity at work. Improved health of the body includes that of the brain, which is, after all, just another of the body’s organs that benefits from the improved blood supply and function that exercise brings about. Improved brain function means improved:
There’s no question that enhanced memory, focus, learning, and creativity will enhance your job performance. The improved memory alone improves productivity since pulling information from your own memory instead of your PC or mobile device saves time. Eliminating one of the biggest time wasters of all — distraction — through better concentration will have a big impact on your productivity if you’re prone to this problem.
On the other hand, creativity is improved in two ways. First, because exercise improves brain function, then creativity, a product of the brain, is likewise improved. Second, breakthrough ideas often occur when you aren’t directly focused on the problem. When you feel you’re getting nowhere on a problem, take a walk or an easy run and there’s a good chance your “aha” moment will occur during the workout or on your way back to work. However, this won’t happen until after you’ve immersed yourself in the problem.
Beyond these four functional improvements, an improved emotional state is another benefit with important productivity implications. Exercise increases your sense of well-being and makes you more resistant to stress. This means you’re less prone to anxiety or frustration when grappling with difficult work situations. Both of these negative states of mind impede clear thinking and creativity. Improved well-being promotes optimism, which has been shown to have a beneficial impact on long-term success.
Yet another beneficial effect is an increase in energy. The more energy you have, the more you can accomplish during the course of your workday. To get these benefits from exercise you must:
- Make it moderate. Extreme workouts that require lengthy recovery periods will interfere with your work performance. Low to moderate intensity exercise will do the job and improve your overall health.
- Make exercise a priority. If enhanced work productivity is important to you, then exercise, the means of achieving it, must be one of your priorities. Make time for it.
- Exercise consistently. It will take a few weeks of consistent exercise before you start to notice many of the above benefits. To continue benefiting, you must continue exercising.
Finally, exercise should be something you enjoy and even look forward to. If you find most forms of exercise intrinsically dull, then make it a social activity.