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How Exercise Benefits Your Career: Part 2

Updated: May 3, 2020

[Part 2 -- Continuation of previous post: How Exercise Benefits Your Career: Part 1] Perhaps one of the most common perceived obstacles of exercising is time. People see themselves as too busy to make "extra" time to exercise -- Specifically because of work. For many, their work consumes the majority of their energy.

In fact, in a recent study from Staples Business Advantage, done in conjunction with workplace expert Jacob Morgan, found that 40 percent of employees feel burnt out. Over half of all respondents said they felt overworked, and 65 percent said that workplace stress impacts them on a personal basis. 15 percent said they have taken a leave of absence as a direct result of workplace stress.

Ironically, and contrary to how we feel at the end of a workday, implementing an exercise program into your lifestyle adds great advantages to how you work and your career.

"Regular exercise and physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, improves the speed, efficiency, and accuracy of cognitive functioning by improving attentional focus and concentration," ~ Scott B. Martin, PhD, professor of sport and exercise psychology, University of North Texas


[Continued fromPart 1]

6. Exercise Reduces Work Stress

"Exercise helps to combat stress because it causes increases in neurotransmitters such as serotonin that are depleted by anxiety and depression." ~Wendy Suzuki, professor of neural science and psychology, New York University

While generally accepted as a vague concept likely to be true, research published in the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention puts some concrete evidence on the stress-relieving effects of exercise.

In this study, researchers offered a variety of workers, classes in weight loss/diet, stress, exercise, and smoking cessation. Those who exercised, reported less stress than the control group, an average rating of 4.7 compared to 6.5 on a stress scale, respectively.

7. Exercise Combats Job Burnout

An increasing amount of scientific work suggests positive effects of exercise-related interventions in patients with burnout.

The expression to be “burned-out” describes that a person is no longer able to “burn” or to be productive concerning their responsibilities, most often their paid work. A series of studies suggest that physical activity based interventions are indicated in the treatment of burnout in an occupational setting.

In one study, more than half of the participants with mild to moderately severe depression, experienced a reduction in depression symptoms after an exercise intervention based on running (Greist et al., 1979). Another study shows that exercise (running) has positive effects on work-related fatigue and employee well-being (de Vries et al., 2017). It has been shown that aerobic exercise groups and/or strength training groups, compared to a control group, lead to a clear reduction in the depression score (Pappas et al., 1990). Interestingly enough, the authors report a marked antidepressant effect after the exercise training protocol, while the relaxation exercises remained ineffective. Moving made a big difference.

"Exercise produces a protein called PGC-1alpha, which breaks down kynurenine, a substance that accumulates as a result of stress. This reduces the risk of depression and job burnout." ~Michael Mantell, PhD

8. Exercise Speeds Up Information Processing

According to Geoffrey A. Kerchner, assistant professor of neurology and neurological sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine, what we consider the brain’s processing speed is actually the ways in which electrical signals travel across axons -- like the wiring connecting different parts of the brain.

The white matter of the brain is made up of all of this wiring, and is fed by blood vessels. Staying fit and getting plenty of aerobic exercise is the number one suggestion by most neurologists to sustain axons and even potentially improve processing speeds.

According to Psychology Today, people who exercise moderately to vigorously just once a week are 30 percent more likely to maintain their cognitive function than those who do not exercise at all.

Numerous studies have linked faster walking speed to faster mental processing. In fact, one Journals of Gerontology study found that the slowing of gait speed may predict mental decline. Kind of gives that whole idea of "being quick on your feet" a whole new appreciation, doesn't it?

9. Exercise Builds Your Resilience

We can all conjure up iconic images of mental resilience, such as the marathon runner who pushes past "the wall" and perseveres onto victory. There's little question that to be an athlete you need to be able to persevere -- the ability to push past stressors to succeed. This resilience can determine your success at the office, as well.

A review published in the Journal of Sports Sciences found athletes deal with three types of stressors (similarly found in the workplace):

  1. Personal

  2. Organizational

  3. Competitive

The study goes onto explain the psychological benefits of exercise aids athletes push past the stressors to reach their goals (also required to succeed an a work environment), specifically:

  • Positivity

  • Motivation

  • Confidence

  • Focus

Just like physical stress, psychological stress sets off a cascade of hormone responses Cortisol is the best-known, but there are many more, such as a norepinephrine surge (that "rush" you feel when you're startled and experience a huge surge in energy).

Regular exercise reduces the baseline levels of stress hormones, blunting the hormonal response to sudden psychological stress. In short, the mental or emotional stressors you inevitably experience at work will feel less intense -- doing less damage to your body and brain, thus increasing your resilience.

10. Exercise Can Expand Your Network

While many consider business networking more in the setting of a golf course or over cocktails in a swanky bar, people in general are changing their focus to health consciousness. It is estimated that one in four American adults do not drink alcohol, with teetotalism becoming increasingly popular with the younger generations in particular. Gyms are gaining momentum in popularity, as well. It is estimated that one in six Americans are gym members, with some replacing going to night clubs with endurance sports competitions on the weekends.

Want to find a new group of people to connect with? Try a new twist on networking and try "sweatworking" at your gym or group athletics – either by attending organizing events or taking out your headphones between sets at the gym to chat with other interesting professionals.

“Sweating together breeds a unique sense of camaraderie. Small talk proliferates between sets and reps, so getting to know your partners in fitness — including their professional lives — is all part of the game. With the right pieces lined up, making the leap from fitness friends to business partners isn’t at all farfetched.” ~David Tao for Forbes

Missed Part 1 of HOW EXERCISE BENEFITS YOUR CAREER? No worries... Go back and give it a read to catch yourself and get the full benefit. Then get moving....

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