It’s no secret that exercise makes us feel good. We might dread it with every ounce of our being beforehand, but when its over we feel a million times better. There is so much scientific research that tell us exercise (increasing heart rate, innervating muscles) releases “happy” hormones that leave us feeling 10x better. These hormones are only released when we do things that make us feel good (like smiling) and leave us with an increased amount of natural energy. Well, because of this, researchers started looking into the effects of exercise on productivity. Does exercise make us focus better, work harder and get more done? Yes. Yes it does. So let me explain the benefits of exercise in the work place.
It is no secret that healthcare costs in our country are rising every year. How many Americans are obese? Between 2015 and 2016, 93 million American adults were affected by obesity. 3 in 4 Americans are currently, or will be, obese by 2020. Obesity is now the 4th largest cause of death in the world. That, my friends, is astronomical. one-third of the United States is obese, and 20% of adolescents aged 2-19 are obese. You want to know the worst part about that? Obesity is 100% preventable. Our day to day lifestyle has made us some of the laziest in the world, and it is only getting worse. Technology is causing us to spend so much time sitting, heck, we don’t even have to leave our houses now to work, grocery shop or talk to other humans. We must change this. We need to start working to decrease healthcare costs as a whole in the U.S. Employers are now realizing how much money they are spending each year on health care costs alone, as well as seeing their “sick day” numbers increase year after year. Last year the U.S. spent $3.2 TRILLION dollars on healthcare. The average person working 40 hours a week takes 3 weeks of sick days each year.
We know that exercise is going to significantly reduce the obesity rate in this country, as well as working to make our food industry better. But does exercise increase productivity? Will employers see a decrease in their healthcare spending and employee sick days if they make exercise a mandatory part of their company? A study done by the CDC showed that 11% of total healthcare costs in the U.S. was directly related to inactivity. That means $333 billion dollars spent on healthcare, and by employers, can be eliminated (or greatly reduced) if we start adding in wellness programs and mandatory exercise in the workplace. Not to mention the productivity benefits employers will see.
Employers have recently found that employees who regularly exercised and ate healthy reduced absenteeism by 27%. Studies have found that job performance among those who ate a healthy diet and exercised regularly was 11% higher than their peers who were obese. This means that even 30 minutes, 3 times a week of exercise can make a huge impact on employee productivity. To me, that means employers should start decreasing work-day hours and allowing employees to exercise as part of their work day. Studies have even shown that those with shorter work days are more productive overall than those who are forced to be at work for 8 hours a day. Imagine the impact that can make on not just company revenue, but also employee retention! We are much more likely to stay at a job that we are happy and full-filled rather than a job we feel is sucking the life out of us.
We have now read a million statistics stating how beneficial workplace exercise is and how much more productive employees are with regular physical activity. Now let’s dive into HOW exercise can make us more productive.
When we exercise, we are increasing the rate of blood flow throughout our bodies, and to our brain. The increase of blood flow to our brain increases alertness, and allows us to become more awake. Exercise also helps make our heart stronger and healthier. This means it can also be more efficient at getting oxygen to the brain, and therefore increasing energy! Our energy is also boosted by those “happy” hormones, endorphins, that get released when we move our body. These hormones are only released when we are energizing our body with increased blood flow. Endorphins are responsible for that “runners high” or feeling of euphoria after exercise, the best part of working out in my opinion.
We know that being in good health can decrease our chances of severe illness like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension etc. But it can also help with short term illnesses by boosting your immune system. This occurs because exercise increases blood flow and promotes circulation. This circulation helps immune cells to make their way efficiently through the body to do their job. It can also help to move cells through the body faster, and therefore flushing cells, bacteria etc out of the body before they have a chance to hangout and make you sick!
More scary statistics…a new case of dementia is detected every 4 seconds worldwide. Researches think by 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia. That. is. freaking. scary. A recent study done by the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise (the kind that gets your heart really pumping), can boost the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and verbal memory. Research has also found that exercise can directly help memory because of its ability to reduce insulin resistance, and stimulate the release of growth factors, chemicals in the brain that affect growth of new blood vessels and survival of brain cells. It can also help with concentration because exercise improves sleep, and mood, while decreasing stress and therefore improving cognitive function.
Mental illness is real. Lack of movement and food choices is causing a rise in anxiety and depression, but is not necessarily the cause. Depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, one that might be able to be reversed with exercise. As I said before, exercise releases endorphins which increase mood and stimulate the chemicals that increase the release of growth factors. These growth factors create new nerve cells and connections making us happier, but also increasing the size of the hippocampus which is regulates mood.
Job burnout comes from being too stressed, or too overworked on the job. This is getting increasingly more prevalent because of the way our society is shifting to “the grind never stops” or “hustle harder” or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”. We are all trying to work as hard as we can, as much as we can, and as fast as we can in hopes of of maybe keeping up with demands, or maybe even getting ahead. But continuously driving yourself into the ground is going to cause you to burnout. Exercise can actually help decrease that because it decreases stress. It does so by again, releasing those endorphins and making us feel more happy and relaxed. Lifting weights and pushing ourselves is a sure way to blow of some extra steam.
Movement is going to allow us to burn more calories during the day. Burning more calories and moving more is going to tire us out. Not to mention it increases your mood and allows your to slow your mind and relax. Exercise also raises your internal body temperature and promotes relaxation 30-90 minutes after movement. Better sleep is going to mean more productivity and better work done. No one is able to work efficiently without proper sleep, and if we are not efficiently working we are likely not doing good work.
Any type of exercise is going to be beneficial for productivity. This is because any type of exercise is going to raise your heart rate, which in term makes us HAPPY! And happiness means being excited and ready to take on the day. This means, the best time of the day to exercise is before going to work. This is going to increase natural energy to be productive at work and all throughout the day.
Just make sure the amount and type of exercise is enough to energize you, not fully deplete you. If you are walking out of the gym too tired and exhausted to make it through the day, you are likely over-doing it. Your workout should energize and leave you feeling like you can take on the day. because taking on the day is going to make you PRODUCTIVE!
If you aren’t already convinced that exercise increases productivity and decreases the risk of disease, then I did something wrong. hahah!