Ever been sat at your desk, with a complete block, not knowing what to do next?
Well you’re not the only one, lots of people suffer with this every day and one of the best ways to combat it is to get away from your desk. Yes, it does sound counter intuitive but getting away from your desk and exercising is an excellent way to over come this hurdle. It’s something we in our office practice and preach; we’re privileged to work in lush, Kent where our employees use their lunch breaks for runs, always coming back fresh for the afternoon.
Even 10 minutes of simple, low intensity exercise has been shown to boost productivity and prolong concentration levels, so when you come back to your desk you can then work for longer.
So, how does it do this? Let’s a little deeper into the science behind this…
The Science Bit
During exercise BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) is expressed, which promotes neurogenesis, the creation of new neurons in the hippocampus area of the brain, whilst also protecting the existing neurons. The release of BDNF is associated with cognitive improvement and alleviation of depression and anxiety.
Endorphins are a chemical released by the pituitary gland in response to stress or pain which can be associated with exercise. They bind to opioid receptors in neurons, which help to block the release of neurotransmitters and therefore blocking stress and pain, to minimize the discomfort you feel during exercise.
Endorphins are often associated with the euphoric feeling that you get post exercise, increasing self-confidence, promoting a positive attitude and reducing stress levels. The effects of an endorphin release can be addictive and can be compared with morphine or heroin.
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Aerobic exercise reinforces neural connections by increasing the number of dendrite connections between neurons, creating a denser network, which in turn is better able to store and process information.
Blood flow around the body is increased during and after aerobic exercise, which in turn increases the transfer of glucose and oxygen throughout the body, increasing your energy levels.
Added Benefits of Exercise
During our Autumn Huddle, Tim Reid, co-writer of Peter Kay’s Car Share, ran a session with our members on creativity. In the session, to boost everyone’s creativity he got everyone to get up and move about. He said that moving around would boost creativity, mostly for the reasons that we have discovered here due to exercise.
We all know that busy people need to be good at time management and structured, organised exercise can help with this too. Being strict with yourself and scheduling in time to exercise can ensure you organise your time wisely, therefore improving this when in a work environment.
Anyone who has taken part in exercise knows that during and sometimes after we have to work through some discomfort. Not to the point of injury and pain, of course that should not be ‘worked through’, but in the case of effort put in and tiring muscles, etc. Discomfort is something that can sometimes also be felt at work or in business, not quite in the same way, but exercise can teach us to work through this discomfort nonetheless.
Benefits to Employers
As an employer it is definitely beneficial to promote exercise to your employees. Not only can it boost productivity, creativity and other desirable skills, but it can also help reduce sick days and boost morale. Fitter people are less likely to become sick, therefore less likely to be absent from work too.
A workforce with a high morale can achieve so much more. Promoting exercise and showing you care about their wellbeing can help boost their morale, mood and their trust and respect in your as their leader.
How to do it
The exercise we partake in doesn’t need to be strenuous to be beneficial, in fact low to moderate intensity is best according to a study.
As an employer some of the things you could suggest or offer to your employees to encourage them to be more active are:
- Walking meetings- studies has shown the importance of walking on public health
- Printers further from desks
- Start up a company sports team
- Organise a charity or fundraising event- like the rowathon
- Install showers in the workplace to encourage Lunchtime workouts
- Offer gym memberships or money off one as an employee benefit
- Allow employees to leave half an hour early to get to the gym/do activities
- Team building days
- Bike or Walk to work scheme
- Standing desks or gym balls to sit on
Some of the things that you, as an individual, can do to reap the cognitive rewards that come with regular exercise are:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Park further away from the door at work or the shops
- Find an exercise buddy
- Make it fun- what do you enjoy doing, what did you enjoy as a kid
- Sign up to a class
Although only doing 10 minutes of exercise on a one-off occasion does help, the biggest benefits are certainly seen when the exercise is undertaken regularly. So, here are some tips to help you to weave some exercise into your busy schedule:
- Start small – it is best to create small habits that you can gradually increase, making lasting changes to your lifestyle, than aiming for a 30 mins workout every day and not achieving it.
- Have fun – choose something that you enjoy, or you will not stick to it. If you genuinely don’t enjoy any, give yourself some incentive to work towards.
- Don’t put barriers in the way – don’t worry about equipment or tracking the workout, extra effort or work kills new habits
- Schedule it in – put it on your calendar or in your diary, make a plan and stick to it. Treat it as an appointment that you cannot miss.
The benefits of exercise are plain to see, for individuals and employers alike. From improving mood and reducing stress levels, to boosting your cognitive capacity and productivity, it can help with all sorts. So, will you be changing what you do, to add some exercise into your routine? Or maybe you are already exercising and reaping its many rewards.