Can exercise help you get (and keep) a better job?
Thinking about the value of exercise, we tend to concentrate on the several well-known and recognized physical benefits, such as cardiovascular health, diabetes, weight control, osteoporosis, …
As many jobs do require physical skills, a relationship between physical activity and workplace can easily be rationalized. Therefore, if a person is fit, he/she will be able to handle more physically demanding tasks, such as carrying more weight, or working longer and harder without having to take as many breaks. However, in today’s job market, most jobs require little or no physical exertion. In this reality, fitness and productivity seem not really related.
Yet, over the past decade, scientists have gathered compelling evidence suggesting that for fact regular exercise has an impact on the way we think. Studies show that our cognitive performance immediately benefits from exercise. (1) And nowhere are improved concentration, faster learning, lower stress level, enhanced creativity more relevant than to our performance at work. Investigations show that the way the brain processes information changes along with the level of physical activity of the organism, but even more important, physical activity effectively changes the brain, both at a morphological and functional levels.(2)
A study from the University of Cambridge evidenced that about half a million people in the UK experience work-related stress at a level they believe is making them ill. (3) While there are other ways to alleviate stress in the workplace, like prioritizing your projects every day, staying organized and being able to say no when you need to, physical exercise is high on the list.
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which reduce stress levels, among other things. When you are less stressed you are better able to manage your colleagues, employees and/ or clients. You are less irritable, have greater mental focus and creativity and can better prioritize tasks because you can think more clearly.
What prevents us from exercising more often?
For many of us, the answer is simple: We don’t have the time. But let’s be clear: What we really mean when we say we don’t have time for an activity is that we don’t consider it a priority given the time we have available.
This is why the research illuminating the cognitive benefits of exercise is so compelling. Exercise enables us to soak in more information, work more efficiently, and be more productive.
Instead of viewing exercise as something that takes us away from our work—it’s time we started considering physical activity as part of the work itself. The alternative, which involves processing information more slowly, forgetting more often, and getting easily frustrated, makes us less effective at our jobs and harder to get along with for our colleagues.
How do you successfully incorporate exercise into your routine?
Identify a physical activity you actually like. When we view exercise as something we do for fun, it is more probable that we will stick to it.
Become part of group, not a collective .Socializing makes exercise more fun, which improves the chances that you’ll keep doing it.
(1) Hogan CL et al Exercise holds immediate benefits for affect and cognition in younger and older adults. Psychol Aging. 2013 Jun;28(2):587-94
(2) Foster PP, Role of physical and mental training in brain network configuration. Front Aging Neurosci. 2015; 7():117
(3) Available http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/hr/policy/stress/causes.html (accessed: 01-08-2017)
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