Most people work out for the general health benefits or because they want to get stronger or control their weight. But there’s another health benefit of exercise that’s less well appreciated. Exercise can actually make you more productive at work. Need convincing? Here are ways that exercise can make your work life easier.
Exercise Improves Your Brain Power
Exercise does surprisingly good things for your brain cells. One thing exercise does is increase the number of mitochondria inside the cells of your hardworking muscles. Mitochondria are the energy-producing powerhouses inside cells that generate ATP to fuel muscle contraction. Endurance increases the number of mitochondria inside cells so they become more efficient at producing energy. As it turns out, exercise also boosts mitochondria inside brain cells. This gives your brain an additional energy boost as well.
Even more amazing is a study carried out at the National Institute of Aging in Boston and the University of Cambridge in the U.K. It showed that endurance exercise can grow new brain cells in mice. Mice that ran in a spinning wheel daily gave birth to an average of 6,000 new brain cells in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, a portion that processes memories and helps you recall things. Regular exercise seems to stimulate neurogenesis, a process by which the brain and nervous system form new cells. Not only does exercise give you firm abs and slender thighs, it can give you a better memory and make you a star at work.
Exercise Helps You Handle Work-Related Stress
Few people have a completely stress-free job. When you take that stress home, it can lead to difficulty sleeping and stress-related weight gain. Exercise helps you handle those daily work frustrations better. Researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K. found that university staff who exercised on days that they worked managed their time and workload better, felt more motivated and were calmer and better able to deal with stress.
How does exercise reduce stress? You’re probably familiar with the phenomenon of the “runner’s high,” that euphoric feeling runners get after they’ve run for a while. That euphoria is believed to come from the release of natural chemicals called endorphins that boost mood and help to relieve stress. It’s not just runners that get endorphin release. Working out at a vigorous intensity also stimulates the release of stress-busting endorphins. In addition, exercise lowers levels of cortisol, a hormone produced in response to stress. Shorter, more intense workouts seem to be best for relieving stress because they also increase human growth hormone, which offsets the negative effects of cortisol.
Exercise Improves Your Mood
Exercise also has a mood-elevating effect, probably due to the way it changes brain chemicals and causes the release of endorphins. Some scientists believe that endorphins are even more powerful mood boosters than opiate drugs like morphine. Regular exercise makes it a little easier to get up in the morning and face another day. Plus, if you work out first thing in the morning, you’ll get the mood boost you need to face your co-workers with a smile.
The Bottom Line?
There are lots of good reasons to exercise. It makes you look and feel better, and it might even help you get a promotion at work – or at least make you happier while you’re there.
Physorg.com. “Aerobic exercise grows brain cells”
Mail Online. “People who exercise on work days are happier, suffer less stress and are more productive”
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. February 1999 – Volume 13 – Issue 1.