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Fitness Break Boosts Performance

Got a looming deadline? Boss bearing down on you? Take a break for fitness – and research says you’ll increase your productivity.

It may sound (and certainly feel) counterintuitive to time-crunched professionals, but a study from Leeds Metropolitan and Bristol Universities found that employees worked faster and more efficiently on days they exercised during their lunch breaks.

Researchers monitored over 200 workers at three sites – a university, a life insurance firm and a computer company. Activity ranged in length from 30 to 60 minutes and in type from yoga to basketball. “We could find no difference according to length of exercise or duration or intensity. You still got the effect no matter what you did,” observed lead researcher Jim McKenna.

While emotional benefits had been anticipated (those “who exercised went home feeling more satisfied with their day,” for example, and were more tolerant/less likely to lose their temper): “Boosts in productivity were over and above the effects on mood.”

These results confirm other findings previously discussed in the DNN. In “Better Workers Work Out,” we found that employees who exercised three days a week accomplished more and had fewer health care costs than their sedentary counterparts. “Slim Waist, Fat Wallet” found that losing weight correlated with gained wealth. The research resonates as well with “Experiment in Employee Wellness,” in which programs pioneered by the Dole Nutrition Institute led to improved health outcomes (as well as garnered morale-boosting recognition with the California Fit Business Award).

But can taking time out to work out really improve your turnaround? Exercise enhanced study subjects’ productivity by roughly 15%. How many hours a day do you work? Take that number (minus time spent exercising) and multiply it by 15%. As you can see you’ll more than make up for your fitness break! Just one more reason why the “no time to exercise” excuse doesn’t add up.

Published January 9, 2006

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