More than ever companies are realizing that healthy employees are happy, productive, and innovative employees. General Electric provides free health coaching and gym memberships to its employees and their families. Google has communal bikes and on-site doctors and nurses. Twitter offers yoga and pilates classes.
This isn't just a fad. Studies have repeatedly shown the effects of physical exercise on cognitive performance. When we exercise we are more aroused: there is increased blood flow to the brain, greater neurotransmitter secretion, and increased brain growth and plasticity over time. All of this improves our memory, attention spans, and executive functions like reasoning, problem solving, and planning. Our brains are alert and we experience a decrease in stress, which has proven to be a performance killer.
But what if your company doesn't have all those fancy perks like in-house gyms, spas, nutritionists and treadmill desks? Are you destined not to reach peak performance?
The great news is that you really don't need all the frills of a state-of-the-art workplace in order to reap the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle. A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicineshowed that acute periods of exercise--just 10 to 40 minutes of physical activity--can boost brain power. And you don't need any fancy equipment.
Here are five ways to incorporate more exercise into your workday:
- Go on walking meetings. The next time you have a meeting with colleagues, take it out of the conference room. Stroll through a local park, go around the block, walk around the building. This exercise will get you out of your seat for a well-deserved leg stretch. Plus, it boosts creativity as new environments and views inspire new perspectives and thought processes.
- Toss a ball while brainstorming with colleagues. This activity will keep you alert, and as your mind syncs with the physical rhythm of tossing and catching, you'll find that the ideas keep on coming!
- Take the stairs, not the elevator. This will definitely get your blood pumping! If you work on a high floor, challenge yourself to take more and more flights of stairs as the days go by. Also, experiment with pace: you might want to go slow and steady in order to be able to climb more stairs, but going fast for just a couple flights will provide a more immediate rush.
- Ditch your desk chair. A review by the Annals of Internal Medicine found that a sedentary lifestyle is highly correlated with cardiovascular disease, cancer, and many other health conditions--especially for people with low levels of physical activity. Sitting all day really can kill you. Consider using a standing desk or standing at a counter-top. If that's not possible, switch out your chair with a large exercise ball. The ball will help you keep good posture and stay balanced and alert.
- Try stationary cardio and strength exercises. Jog in place, jump rope, do push-ups. Close your office door and turn up your iPod. Remember, it's all about getting your heart going and activating your brain. Even just a few five-minute bursts of exercise throughout the day can do wonders for your work performance.
The best part of all? It's a never-ending cycle. When you are physically fit and mentally engaged in your work, you are bound to love the work you do. When you love your job, you live longer. This career momentum will help you as you move up the ranks and into the dream job you've always wanted.