Benefits of Working Out at Work! REAL EASY

How can fitness professionals help desk jockeys boost their daily activity levels? Perhaps it’s time to change the message.

Instead of focusing on the risks of inactivity—which hasn’t made much headway—maybe we should appeal to career-oriented sensibilities and explain how even 5 minutes of movement can make people more successful at their jobs.

This article reviews studies that correlate workplace exercise with job satisfaction, productivity and overall success. It also suggests simple, time-efficient workouts your clients can do at the office.

Why It’s Good to 
Work Out at Work

Regular exercise is essential for physical health, but knowing this may not be enough motivation to get office workers moving. Fortunately, plenty of research shows that fitting in even a short walk during the workday can lead to a happier, more productive work environment.

Energy Booster

Energy drink companies have created a significant business from office workers who need a late-afternoon pick-me-up. However, studies show that exercise—even a short walk around the building—can be a far better and healthier way to pump up end-of-day energy levels. For example, researchers from the University of Georgia studied a group of sedentary young adults who reported feeling low energy and fatigue. They were assigned to do low- or moderate-intensity exercise three times per week for 6 weeks. At study completion, they reported a 20% increase in energy levels and a 65% decrease in feelings of fatigue (Puetz, Flowers & O’Connor 2008).

Job Performance

Some people fear that exercising during the day will make it harder to get their work done. Researchers from the University of Bristol and Leeds Metropolitan University, both in England, found otherwise. They recruited 201 people from three workplaces whose jobs required little physical activity (locations were chosen because they offered worksite exercise access). Volunteers completed surveys on exercise days and nonexercise days. On exercise days, they reported improvements in mood and performance. Interestingly, performance gains happened regardless of exercise intensity and workload (Coulson, McKenna & Field 2008).

Workplace Happiness

In a study of Israeli workers, researchers looked at physical activity levels and feelings of depression and job burnout over 9 years. They found that job burnout and depression were highest among those who did not exercise. Conversely, subjects who achieved the highest levels of physical activity reported the lowest incidences of depression and burnout (Toker & Biron 2012).

Better Brain Power

Staring at a computer for hours on end is not the best way to achieve a critical mental breakthrough­­—the longer you stare, the further away the solution seems to get. Research finds that physical activity is a viable alternative for shaking loose those stubborn ideas.

In a recent study, researchers wanted to learn about the immediate benefits of exercise on cognitive ability (Hogan, Mata & Carstensen 2013). They recruited 144 people aged 19–93 who either did 15 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or joined the nonexercise control group (which spent 15 minutes rating neutral images). The volunteers completed memory and cognition tests before and after their respective tasks. Overall, everyone in the exercise group experienced significantly more improvements in mental ability than the control group did, the authors stated