If you exercise at all, you don’t need to be told that it’s good for your health or good for your mood, but you might not be aware just how good it is for your career. Studies have shown that regular exercise has several cognitive benefits that help you perform better on the job:
- Higher energy levels
- Faster learning and information processing
- More efficient work
- Sharper memory
- Improved concentration
- Longer mental stamina
- Enhanced creativity
- Less susceptibility to frustration
- Reduced stress
Mood is a work-related performance and enjoyment factor that cannot be overstated; it’s simply imperative that you sustain a positive mood in order to be successful. Mood studies in the field of psychology have determined that exercise has profound effects on anxiety and depression. Much work remains to be done, but the cumulative understanding from research to date boils down to this: exercise has such broad effects that there are multiple mechanisms operating at multiple levels within the body and mind, and interacting with one another.
Want concrete examples, proven by research, of how increasing your commitment to exercise could affect your daily work routine? A Leeds Beckett University study showed that on days when employees exercised, their work experience improved in the areas of time management, productivity, interactions with colleagues, and feeling satisfied at the end of the day.
So you’re convinced and ready to hit the gym. What kinds of exercise should you pursue? If you are concerned about staying lean or losing weight, focus on forms of exercise you enjoy. This study shows that the more you enjoy your workout, the less likely you will be to reward yourself with a hedonistic snack and sabotage your fitness gains in the process. It also goes without saying that it’s easier to stick to a fitness routine that’s enjoyable and diverse, rather than one that’s repetitive drudgery.
So find your fitness passions and combine them. Hit the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the tennis courts on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the dance floor on Saturday nights. Whatever does it for you, just do it! Once you establish a routine, here are some of the effects you can expect:
Higher Energy Levels
When you complete a rigorous workout, even though you may feel physically exhausted, you also feel a rush pulsing through your body. It’s a fantastic feeling. That’s because workouts increase the release of serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine in the brain, otherwise known as happiness hormones. The regular release of these hormones is associated with higher energy levels. Even more important, exercise raises your heart rate and strengthens your heart muscle, which increases your circulation in the immediate aftermath of a workout. As a result of habitual exercise, the heart gets stronger and everyday circulation is improved, which makes you more energetic.
Stronger Thinking Skills
Concentration, memory, and creativity are all enhanced with regular exercise. Exercise has been shown to increase the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Because workouts increase your heart rate, they promote stronger flow of blood and oxygen to your brain cells, which can enhance their growth. This benefit is especially important to derive from exercise as we age, in order to combat oxidative stress and inflammation that naturally make our brains weaker over time.
Sleep, like exercise, has myriad positive effects on our health, vigor, and well-being. A regular exercise routine has been shown to improve the quality and duration of sleep. One study found that 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous weekly exercise can provide up to 65 percent improvement in sleep quality, and another showed that extended physical activity helped increase sleep quality and energy during the day. Both aerobic and resistance training exercises have shown positive effects on sleep.
Take the Imprimis Exercise Challenge and commit to 16 weeks (4 months) of increasing the time and energy you invest in exercise. If you have health concerns, of course, talk to your doctor before engaging in any exercise. Record your daily observations of its impact on your energy, thinking, sleep, mood, and the other factors discussed here. Being able to reflect on your positive experiences will make it easier to push through those workouts when you just don’t feel quite as motivated. In the end, your health and your career will benefit!