Stuck in a career rut? I bet you didn’t think the answer might be waiting for you at the gym. Or on the running track. Or even the bike path, the tennis court, or the pool. Whatever your choice of exercise, studies suggest that physical activity might just make you better at your job.
Intuitively, we all know that exercise is as good for our brains as it is our bodies. It just makes sense. But it’s always nice to see the definitive proof. Sometimes, it can be exactly that proof—typed out in black and white, and impossible to ignore—that triggers healthy change.
So what if I told you that one predictor of success at work might actually be in the oft-overlooked ‘interests and hobbies’ section of your resume?
Science now supports the theory that physical activity improves mental functioning in a number of ways, and that may likely translate to being better at your job. But how exactly?
1) Exercise improves cognitive performance straight away.
A study published in Psychology and Aging showed that fifteen minutes of exercise improved cognitive performance—that’s the function of our grey matter—immediately afterwards. That means that if you’re looking for a more productive afternoon, then perhaps you should use your lunch break for a workout. Followed by a healthy meal to refuel, of course.
2) It also slows how the brain ages over time.
In case the immediate benefits weren’t enough, there’s also evidence to suggest that physical strength predicts how the brain will age over ten years. With more Aussies working for longer and intending to retire later in life, it makes sense that we should take care of our brain health to stay sharp as a tack, and therefore productive in the workplace. Keeping fit—along with other diet and lifestyle measures—plays a role in that.
3) Physical activity means less stress.
Stress is an inevitable part of life. But that doesn’t mean it has to become overwhelming, make you unhappy, or reduce your performance at work. Harvard Medical School explains that exercise reduces circulating levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, and that it has even been shown in clinical trials to be an effective treatment for depression and anxiety.
So the next time you’re at your desk, and find yourself flustered, frustrated, and forgetful, it might be time to step out of the office and into the gym. Or even better, get out into the sun and enjoy the positive effects of fresh air and sunshine. It doesn't have to be a chore; find something you love and prioritise it.
Not only will it help make you happier at work, but it will likely help your performance too—and therefore your overall career progression. So if you’re looking for a promotion, a raise, a new job, or other business success, keep in mind that it may require a little sweat.
This blog post was written in conjunction with my mates at Grow Super, to help you take charge of your personal health—as well as your financial health.