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How And When To Exercise To Boost Your Productivity

Source | FastCompany : By Josh Davis

You already know that exercise is healthy and important. Sticking with a regular workout can leave you looking and feeling better. And you’ve probably also heard about its mental and cognitive benefits, too. But it’s less well known that the timing and type of exercise it takes to boost productivity is often quite different than the gym routines we adopt for their physical gains.

Many of us squeeze in our workouts whenever our schedules allow—at the end of the day, if we aren’t too tired or on weekends. Most of the time, the aim is to burn calories, get our heart rates up, or build muscle, so we push ourselves as hard as we can for as long as we’re willing.

And while that approach may deliver those physical results, they don’t always lead to all the mental benefits many of us look for—at least not at the level they could. Here’s a look at what the latest research says about the productivity side of exercise.

1. Don’t Push It

If you were working out to lose weight, then you probably think, the more, the better—20 minutes might feel like slacking off. But if your workout is geared toward being your most productive, then you may actually be better off not pushing yourself to the edge.

Jogging for 20–30 minutes on the treadmill, taking a very brisk walk for 45 minutes, or some other form of moderate exercise can generate the cognitive, emotional, and energy benefits that many of us need to power through a workday.

2. Focus On Same-Day Benefits

Anyone who’s tried weight training knows you need to give your muscles a few days to rest and repair after a hard workout. But when it comes to exercising with an eye toward productivity, it’s more about maximizing near-term benefits.

Done right, a good workout can affect how you feel emotionally, your energy level, and how you think that very same day. Aerobic exercise has been shown to reliably reduce anxiety—starting right after a workout. That can make the difference when it comes to staying present, thinking clearly, and not getting tripped up by details on days when you’ve got a huge workload to tackle. Exercise also has same-day effects on cognition, making it easier to engage in what psychologists call “executive functions,” like self-control, decision making, and handling conflicting needs.

And because a moderate workout can generate these boosts pretty much immediately, it doesn’t take weeks or months of conditioning to achieve them. That means exercise is actually a great way to prepare for high-pressure workdays—whenever you’ve got a big presentation, writing assignment, negotiation, or prickly team issue to navigate and you need to be at your best to do it.

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