Exercise & Productivity

Exercise & Productivity

We all know we need to add some movement to our days if we hope to increase our energy levels, remain healthy long-term, and lose weight, if that’s something we aspire to.

If you already have an exercise regimen you keep to, congratulations, you may not need to make any immediate adjustments.

But most of us aren’t moving enough. Sitting has been called the new smoking, and with hybrid work becoming the new norm, there are more opportunities to spend long hours at a desk or in front of screens than ever before. Longer sitting times have been linked to lower productivity levels and mental well-being.

I don’t know if “lower” mental well-being is the right verbiage here, but it was the terminology used in the study cited. Either way, spending all day at a desk affects your mood negatively.

But how much exercise do we need, exactly? What’s the North Start to aim for?

Mayo Clinic says we require at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. And if you’re thinking about losing weight, 300 minutes per week is ideal.

Further, Mayo Clinic recommends strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least twice per week.

This exact routine may not be the ideal for everyone. What matters is we have a target to aim for. Adjusting from there, based on personal preferences and goals, is easy.

Sidebar – I have found that my best ideas come to me when I’m busy doing things other than work, including exercise, showering, driving, and most notably, reading. But I am often astounded at how working out will trigger one or two ideas that would make an immediate difference for whatever I’m working on at the time.

Famously, business magnate Steve Jobs thought he did his best thinking while walking, so he didn’t hold meetings in a board room. Meetings were held while walking with his staff. Most of my meetings are virtual, so I can’t generally walk around as they’re happening, but given the choice, I prefer Jobs’ approach.

Movement really does make a difference.

Burke Britton Financial Partners & Secure Life Financial Solutions corralled some key points around the connection between exercise and productivity based on research. Here’s what they found:

  • In one study, it was shown that workday exercise (meaning, participants exercised the same day they worked) improved time management and workload by 72%.
  • Low-intensity aerobic exercise does a better job of improving productivity than high-intensity exercise.
  • Workplaces that adopted a “sit less, move more” approach found that employees improved productivity loss and lost workday productivity (again, verbiage here is weird, but what they’re saying is when employees were encouraged to move more, they were more productive).

Okay, so exercise is good. But is it possible to do too much?

The general attitude is that you should push yourself as hard as you can because your body can take it.

Then why is that young people committed to healthy eating, rigorous exercise routines, and disciplined lifestyles sometimes spontaneously drop dead[1]?

I will let you come to your own conclusions, but there is more than enough evidence to suggest that it is possible to push yourself too hard, and that – as crazy as this sounds – being too fit can potentially reduce your lifespan.

Indiatimes published a research-backed article titled Too much exercise can shorten your life; here’s the ideal amount of exercise for a long life. Summarily, they found that excessive exercise can lead to joint and heart problems.

Here are several other key findings:

  • Higher volumes of sports training do result in a big drop in mortality risk. But these benefits regress when training for more than 4.5 hours per week.
  • Running for 60 minutes per day, five days per week for 10 to 12 years was linked to arterial stiffening and thickening.
  • Runners who run at a pace of at least seven miles per hour for four or more hours per week had mortality rates on par with sedentary adults.
  • Japanese Kabuki actors are known for their high-impact, vigorous movements. They were found to have shorter lifespans compared to other traditional art performers who lead sedentary lifestyles.

Moderation truly is the key to everything. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. It’s a toxin.

You need movement if you want to be more productive. But beware of pushing yourself too hard.

[1] Also see Mayo Clinic’s Sudden death in young people: Heart problems often blamed.

Disclaimer: This post does not constitute health advice.

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