By Simon Jaeger
Productivity in the workplace is extremely important. The quantity and quality of our contribution to the organisations we work for, the companies we run, and/or the clients we do business with, are two of the most important factors in establishing career success.
When it comes to MAXIMISING your productivity, exercise is an essential ingredient in helping you to attain optimum output.
Alertness and Energy
Here’s a quick science lesson: exercise increases blood flow to the brain, and that sharpens your awareness. A study by Jim McKenna from the University of Bristol showed that after exercising, work performance was consistently higher, as shown by better time management and improved mental sharpness.
I can certainly attest to these findings. The difference between my daily energy levels after a visit to the gym or a 30 minute run around the Harbour vs not exercising, or just eating lunch at my desk and trying to plough through more work at the computer, is enormous! For me, it’s the difference between flying through the day’s agenda with enthusiasm and purpose and spending my afternoon fighting off the yawns and becoming scattered with my thoughts.
In saying that, it is important to note the difference between undertaking a ‘work out’, as opposed to undertaking a ‘wear out’. Exercising to the point of total exhaustion around work hours has the ability to be counter-productive.
If you’re looking to start implementing exercise into your routine, specifically to help boost your alertness and energy levels, my advice would be to ease into it, and test out what works for you. If you do less today, you can always do more tomorrow. However, if your colleagues find you curled up in a ball for hours, gasping for life, as a result of your fittest friend’s favourite deadly Crossfit WOD, there’s a chance that you may have defeated the purpose.
Optimum Physical Health
Regardless of the work you do, maintaining good physical health will help improve your overall work ability. Not only can exercising help to reduce body weight and the risk for certain medical conditions, it also has the ability to improve your cardiovascular health, which will in turn, gives you more stamina to meet the physical demands of your job. Even if your role isn’t physically demanding, relevant exercises can have a direct and positive impact on reducing your risk of becoming injured at work and allow you to meet the expectations required for your position.
As an example, even though a large part of my role at UTS involves sitting down at a computer (and not carrying huge cement buckets or fire hoses), incorporating relevant strength exercises, and adequate energy system development into my weekly program helps me to maintain decent posture and core stability, and ultimately reduces the risk of injuries that can occur from extensive periods of sitting (e.g. back/neck/shoulder injuries).
Improves Your Mental Health
The physical health benefits gained as a result of physical activity are (for the majority) widely understood. But, did you know that there are also significant mental health benefits derived from physical activity?
Beyond Blue, offers a good understanding of how exercise can have a positive impact on your mental health:
- Exercise promotes the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain, like endorphins and serotonin.
- Exercise helps you sleep better so you rest fully at night and feel more energised during the day.
- Exercise gives you a sense of accomplishment as your fitness improves and you start achieving your goals.
- Exercise is quite often a shared activity with others, so you get the added benefits of social connection.
How does this relate to productivity, you ask? Well, with your head in a positive state, you’re in a much better position to tackle your daily tasks, to interact with and to lead others in the workplace, and to approach your time at work, with confidence, clarity and eagerness.
Actually being at work is obviously a vital step towards being productive in the workplace.
According to the 2017 Absence Management Survey Report, In Australia, loss of productivity in the workplace due to illness has risen in recent years.
Furthermore, a survey conducted by Medibank Private found that the Australian employees with poor health behaviours have up to nine times the annual sickness absence of healthy individuals (18 days compared to two days per year).
Physical activity is widely recognised as a means for the primary prevention of chronic diseases as well as in patients’ treatment and rehabilitation. Exercise can help prevent obesity, diabetes, and strokes, just to name a few. It also helps to reduce stress and lower your blood pressure, and in recent studies, it’s even shown to reduce your chances of catching the flu.
According to a 2018 Flu Survey by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, exercising vigorously for at least two and a half hours each week can reduce your chances of catching the flu. The survey suggests that 100 cases of flu per 1,000 people could be prevented each year this way.
The take away?
Being productive and alert at work can help you get your job done faster and even make you more eligible for a promotion. By exercising regularly, you’ll not only be benefitting your health, but your career has the potential to receive a huge boost at the same time.
So, with that all being said, how much exercise should you be aiming for?
The Australian Government recommends the following in regards to physical activity:
- Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
- Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
- Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity (brisk walking, swimming or mowing the lawn) or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity (aerobic activity that causes difficulty in maintaining regular conversation), or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
- Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.
If you’re not moving your body already, all I can say is to “give it a go, and watch your productivity soar!”
Simon Jaeger is a dynamic Sydney-based marketing consultant, currently working at UTS Careers. With over 10 years of experience across a multitude of disciplines, including experiential, digital, and integrated marketing, Simon brings a holistic and data-driven approach to driving creativity and innovation to the tertiary education space.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash