The exercise/work balance

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Could regular exercise be the key to improving your health and your career?

Fifteen members of staff at The Highlands Practice in Fareham regularly get together to take part in weekly parkrun events; jogging 5k every week is bound to improve fitness, but it’s helping to bring staff together too.

Speaking to The News, Portsmouth’s local paper, reception manager Hayley Barker said, “Taking part is not about how quickly you can finish; it’s about the support and the teamwork.”

Exercising together is also sending out a message to patients, GP partner Dr Jill Choudhury believes. “We have 15 members of staff who regularly take part in parkrun and we are also encouraging patients to participate by walking around Fareham.”

Getting regular exercise isn’t just good for your health – it could help your career too, says the CIPHR’s Barry Chignell. In a recent blog post he identifies four reasons why physical activity can improve your working life.

1. It can make you more productive 

Physical activity is ‘cognitive candy’ says developmental molecular biologist Dr John Medina. “Our evolutionary ancestors were used to walking up to 12 miles per day. This means that our brains were supported for most of our evolutionary history by Olympic-caliber [sic] bodies… We haven’t had millions of years to adapt to our sedentary lifestyle, [which] has hurt both our physical and mental health.”

Research studies have backed up Medina’s claims, demonstrating that looking after your health and wellbeing leads to noticeable improvements in productivity and performance at work.

In a small-scale trial by the Body-Brain Performance Institute, reported in the International Business Times, carried out in Australia in 2011, researchers found that employees who walked 10,000 steps a day, and exercised in the gym three times a week, tended to be more productive than those who only walked the steps. The study measured participants’ ability to plan, remember, simulate scenarios and make decisions, along with their alertness, energy, anger and stress levels.

2. It can boost your creativity and focus

Lacking inspiration? Stuck in a creative rut? Got lots of problems and no idea how to solve them? Stick your trainers on and get moving because a 2013 study by cognitive psychologist Professor Lorenza Colzato, reported by The Telegraph, found that workers who exercised four times a week were more able to think creatively than more sedentary employees.

“We think that physical movement is good for the ability to think flexibly – but only if the body is used to being active,” says Colzato. “Otherwise, a large part of the energy intended for creative thinking goes to the movement itself. Exercising on a regular basis may, thus, act as a cognitive enhancer, promoting creativity in inexpensive and healthy ways.” However, the researchers also noted that the creative performance of those participants who exercised fell when they were completely at rest.

3. It can open up new ways to expand your professional network 

Business networking, traditionally, used to take place over a game of golf or a round of beers, but the UK population is becoming more health conscious. It’s estimated that one-in-five UK adults don’t drink alcohol, with teetotalism becoming increasingly popular among young people, in particular. Gyms are soaring in popularity, too; it is estimated that one-in-seven UK people are gym members, and some are even replacing their visits to nightclubs with late-night exercise classes!

So, if you want to find a new group of people to connect with, why not try ‘sweatworking’ at your local gym or sports centre – either by attending specialist events or simply taking out your headphones and talking to people?

4. Exercising outdoors can lead to extra benefits

Choose to take your exercise outside and you’ll multiply the inherent physical and mental benefits of getting your body moving.

Results of the Urban Mind project, led by Dr Andrea Mechellio of King’s College London, reinforce the positive link between being outdoors and mental health. The study also found that the positive effects of exposure to nature, such as going for a run or sitting in a park, can last for up to seven hours after the experience – so, if you’re thinking twice about walking to work or taking a stroll at lunchtime, think about how good it could make you feel for the rest of the day and get out there!

The article first appeared on the CIPHR’s website.

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