Recent research suggests that yes, exercising not only can make you more productive, but also more energetic, smarter and happier. But how does it work?
As we age, our body generates fewer and fewer brain cells through a process called neurogenesis. Old cells die off, but are not replaced on a one-for-one basis. The research, only done on mice so far, has shown regular exercise slows down their neurogenesis process. So if the theory holds true when research is performed on people, older adults who exercise may have a significant mental advantage in the workplace over colleagues of the same age group that do not exercise.
But exercise also provides a more immediate benefit in the workplace. Within each cell are mitochondria. Simplistically speaking, it is a coenzyme called ATP that cells use to turn food coming through the cell walls into energy – a cell’s molecular furnace if you will. Exercising stimulates the development of new mitochondria in all cells and hence more ATP.
If your molecular furnace is burning hotter, your metabolism is faster thereby you burn more calories. More calories burned (without consuming additional calories beyond what you normally eat in a day) means better weight management. So not only do you end up with more energy physically, but also mentally.
And to reap these two benefits only requires exercising at a low to moderate intensity. As a matter-of-fact the results from an experiment performed over a six-week period by the University of Georgia, showed that low intensity exercising resulted in less fatigue than moderate intensity, but with the same results.
So far we have covered the reason why we are smarter and more energetic if we exercise, but how does exercising make up happier? When we exercise, our brain releases several chemicals called neurotransmitters. One of the chemicals is called endorphins. Its physiological purpose seems to be to lessen the discomfort of exercising, however, in the process it makes us feel good. In exercise circles, it is known as a “runner’s high”. Although you don’t have to run to experience it; any type of exercising will produce the euphoric feeling. And it can last up to several hours post-exercise.
So yes, exercising can make you more productive at work by slowing down the neurogenesis process and building more mitochondria, thus keeping you mentally sharper and more energetic. The release of endorphins while exercising improves your mood which also increases productivity at work. It is no wonder may workers exercise during their lunch break, so they can stay sharp and productive well into the afternoon.