Does exercise make you more productive? - Business Works
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Does exercise make you more productive?

by Conor McArdle, Brighter Business We live in an extremely fast-paced society, convenience is king and finding time to work out is not always easy whilst trying to juggle jobs, commutes and family, says Conor McArdle of Brighter Business.

For many workers across the UK, the typical week day involves spending a great deal of time sitting down. Whether you're travelling into the office by car, train or bus, or you're working at your desk, chances are that you struggle to get a minute to get up and move around.

Sitting down for long periods of time has been recognised as having a negative impact on our health and on our productivity too. In fact, studies have found that sitting for long periods can increase the risk of cardiovascular ill health and reduces muscle and bone strength. Increasingly, long commutes and sedentary lifestyles, including sitting a lot during work, have an impact on both mental health and work performance.

The benefits of exercise

The effects of long periods of inactivity are not always easy to see. Physically, there is lethargy and it is suspected that long periods of sitting can also cause the slowing of the metabolism. This in turn causes increased blood pressure and poor regulation of blood-sugar levels. Psychologically, you may feel less alert, less able to focus and sluggish.

you may feel less alert, less able to focus and sluggish

Exercise is the perfect antidote to combat these side effects. Exercise has a range of effects on the body, both physiological and psychological and is perfect for counteracting the sluggishness that extended periods of inactivity can cause. A 2008 study at Bristol University showed exercise at work can help employees feel more "productive, happy, efficient and calm".

According to the NHS, up to 60 minutes of exercise per day can offset some of the harm caused by sitting down for long periods. The trick is to build exercise into your day as much as possible.

Take the stairs where possible, walk around the office and stretch your legs at lunchtime. Do what you can to minimise long periods of inactivity; you don't have to start running marathons, just increase the amount of movement in your day. Studies have demonstrated that even moderate activity can have positive effects. As an employer, you can also try energising your employees by encouraging walking meetings, stand up huddles or even try getting a group together to fit in a lunchtime workout.

If you exercise more, you need to ensure you're also getting enough sleep. Sleep, too, is increasingly recognised as important for work performance, as well as general health and wellbeing. Balancing sleep with a busy work schedule is important, however, in a society which never switches off, it can be difficult to strike a balance. Put down your phone and try not to compromise on sleep.

An active commute

One of the easiest ways to build exercise into your day is to get active during your commute, either through walking or cycling (or skateboarding, or rollerblading ... your imagination is the limit).

It can be difficult to change travel habits, either for yourself or your employees, depending on distance from the workplace and transport options. But where possible, there are several benefits to active travel, as outlined by Sustrans, the UK's leading sustainable transport charity.

The charity claims that active travel can improve business efficiency. People who cycle take "approximately half the days off compared to the average worker, resulting in a £13.7b annual boost to the British economy". Alongside this, "promoting healthier travel options in the workplace has been shown to reduce absenteeism by up to 20%".

As well as the obvious health benefits, there's a wider range of spin-off benefits for the economy, including reducing congestion in cities which is estimated to cost the UK economy £11bn each year.

In conclusion? Move more, sit less! It's good for your health, your productivity and the wider economy. Get moving!

For more tips, guidance and information on how to boost productivity in your business, please visit: Brighter Business

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