“In order for man to succeed in life, god provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body but for the two together. With these two means, men can attain perfection’’ –Plato, fourth century BC
Here are several good reasons to include working out to your career development plan:
The Anti-Stress Effect
Work can be stressful, but it’s important to not work under stress. There’s evidence that exercise wards off depression, that people who exercise also have lower levels of emotional distress, and less anxiety. The evidence is growing that it’s much more than a correlational effect. So it’s not just that people who exercise happen to have better mental health. A good workout actually sparks a neurochemical chain reaction that gives us more resilience to stress-associated problems.
Sitting All Day
Sitting down all day, as most of us who work in an office environment do, is actually quite bad and puts our body into idle mode. Sitting down all day and then going for a run right before bed is much different than being lightly active throughout the entire day. Too much time without movement and our muscles, metabolism, and other body functions shut down.
Physical movement is not only good for your muscles, but also for your brain. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and also triggers the release of several key hormones:
- Serotonin — boosts mood
- Dopamine — learning and attention
- Norepinephrine — attention, perception, motivation, and arousal
Working out during the day breaks up a long day and can keep you feeling both productive and more satisfied with your work. It’s more than just our perception, though. A study on aging, fitness, and neurocognitive function discovered that engaging in low intensity exercise for just a few hours a week led to large improvements in cognitive functions like planning and multitasking. This study is mentioned in the book The Invisible Gorilla–Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons write about the illusion of potential. We think that we can increase our brainpower by doing Sudokus and crosswords, when in reality, the best thing for our brains is physical exercise.
Keeps You Young
Lastly, if all the mental and cognitive benefits aren’t good enough, there is also a vanity component. Not only does working out help keep your weight down, it also keeps our cells young. The consequence is that we are more likely to avoid chronic diseases that come with age, will look and feel younger, and even keep our brains healthier and younger.
Practical Ways to Work Out at Work
- Put on sneakers and walk around the block or stroll across your corporate campus
- Bring a gym bag and try the elliptical at the local fitness club (check if your employer will comp your membership)
- Ride your bike to and from work
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator — every time!
- Replace your chair with an exercise ball and do crunches in between projects
- Waiting on a call? Long load time? Stand up and do some squats
- Set an Outlook reminder to go off once per hour — take five minutes to stretch your legs and walk around a bit