Does Working Out at Lunch Make You More Productive?

Insights for Professionals

Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Management pros

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Companies looking for ways to boost productivity could benefit from encouraging people to exercise during the day.

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Employees who get regular exercise and stay healthy will reap many benefits not only for themselves, but for their employers as well.

Gym memberships can be an attractive benefit that helps people stay happy and motivated in their jobs, while improved levels of general health are good news for businesses working to keep absenteeism and sick leave to a minimum.

Furthermore, evidence shows exercise can provide all sorts of mental health benefits, helping people to feel more positive and productive in the workplace.

Boosting serotonin

The scientific case for working out at lunch is that exercise boosts levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin has been described as the molecule of will power, a chemical that helps humans mediate activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex and control impulsive behavior.

Particularly low levels of serotonin activity can result in reduced ability to devise and execute well-formed plans, difficulty finishing things, irritation or just generally feeling down. None of these is conducive to good performance at work.

According to a study published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, there are clearly proven links between exercise and serotonin levels, with regular physical activity shown to help people struggling with anxiety and depression.

The UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which makes recommendations for treatments to be made available on the NHS, supports treating mild clinical depression with exercise rather than antidepressants.

If you’re able to make time for even a mild workout every day, you could find that you feel more positive, disciplined and mentally sharp thanks to higher serotonin levels.

The benefits of natural light

Another advantage of getting out of the workplace to exercise every day is that it increases your exposure to natural light, which has also been shown to improve mental wellbeing.

In fact, sunlight has been highlighted as one of four effective ways to increase serotonin activity in the brain, along with exercise, massage and remembering happy events.

Getting out of the office and going for a short run or brisk walk in the outdoors can help you feel refreshed and reinvigorated, reducing stress and improving your ability to face whatever challenges the day might bring.

Thinking things through

Many workers will have found themselves in situations where the various questions and challenges posed by their jobs have felt like more than they can handle.

If you are in the workplace all day long, with no respite from these concerns, you’ll be at serious risk of burnout, and your productivity will suffer.

Exercise helps to clear the mind and generally makes you feel more positive and energized, partly thanks to the release of endorphins, a hormone that inhibits pain signals and can produce feelings of euphoria.

After a workout, you can go back to your job with less stress, more positivity and a renewed sense of confidence to tackle your toughest challenges.

More energy

One of the understandable reasons people might feel reluctant to exercise at lunch is the fear of running out of energy in the afternoon.

However, there is scientific evidence to suggest that working out can actually help you be more active over time, because it triggers the production of mitochondria: tiny organs inside human cells that produce energy.

“Contrary to popular belief, exercising doesn't make you tired - it literally creates energy in your body. Your body rises up to meet the challenge for more energy by becoming stronger.” - Samantha Heller, nutrition advisor for Journey for Control diabetes program

As well as making you more physically able to work, this energy boost can increase your mental acuity and support greater efficiency and productivity in your job.

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