It's common knowledge, but so few people act on it. Exercise sharpens the brain, reduces stress, and energizes – three of several ways physical activity can improve one's career.
Improved sleep, improved mood, and the warding off of depression are three others. Even 10- minute walks during work breaks can have an impact, as would parking far away from the office in order to walk more. Lunch breaks are another opportunity to reap the benefits of work – why not get the exercise out of the way during your workday instead of reading an outdated magazine in the break room?
The Center for Disease Control's National Health Interview Survey reports startling statistics on just how few of us exercise, which Liz Wolgemuth addresses in U.S. News & World Report. "There are mounds of research showing the broad benefits of regular exercise, but most Americans still resist. Even last year, just over a third of men and women of working age – 25 to 64 years old – engaged in regular physical activity," she said.
For those who need a refresher on why exercise is so great, let's look at how it can improve your career through increased intellectual, mental, and psychological well-being.
Boost Brain Power
Manage Depression and Stress
More Sleep, More Energy
Want to sound smarter? Exercise to boost your neuron power. Harvard psychiatry professor Dr. John Ratey, reports that physical activity boosts Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a chemical associated with brain growth. As explained on the American Council on Exercise (ACE) website: "Stronger, healthier, better-connected, bigger brain cells equals increased learning capacity. And here's the big discovery – exercise floods the brain with BDNF, providing the infrastructure it needs to absorb information, process, remember, and use it." According to ACE, countless studies exist on how exercise improves motor skills for physical laborers. In one instance, exercise for reforestation workers decreased work-related injuries from 22 to 5 percent, not to mention increased productivity.
Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang, authors of Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life, calls some of these brain skills that exercise can improve "executive function." In their opinion, published in the New York Times, exercise can change the structure of the brain. "How might exercise help the brain? In people, fitness training slows the age-related shrinkage of the frontal cortex, which is important for executive function," the authors wrote. "In rodents, exercise increases the number of capillaries in the brain, which should improve blood flow, and therefore the availability of energy, to neurons."
What else can exercise do for the brain? Set off pleasure signals! Don't wait for good news, a chocolate, or an antidepressant to feel good … get some happiness right now by taking a walk, Christin Anderson, MS, tells Web MD. Exercise boosts the pleasure chemicals serotonin and dopamine, credited for making us euphoric, happy, and calm. "In other words, if you don't want to wait for those good feelings to come by accident (if they do), you can bring them on by exercising," he said. "When one exercises, you can think more clearly, perform better, and your morale is better. This is pure science -- stimulate your nervous system and function at a higher level." What's even more than a career killer than just mere unhappiness? Depression. Not only can it affect the ability to even mobilize in the morning or focus, it also disables the memory. "If you can control your physiology, you can relax, focus, and remember," says Anderson.
Which brings us to stress. As the economy worsens and the job market becomes more volatile, warding off stress is more important than ever. "There may have been no year more important for Americans to be exercising than 2009, reports U.S. News & World Report, as the employed were weary with stress from being overworked and anxious, and the unemployed physically and mentally drained by fruitless job searches and foreboding headlines."
Anyone who's had a rough night of sleep knows how hard it is to function at work the day after. Those with chronic insomnia have it even worse, and the effects can be devastating. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests increased exercise can treat insomnia. While good sleepers didn't stand to change their sleeping habits, those who have sleep problems could benefit, researchers said, adding that exercise should be right up there with the other insomnia treatments available to patients. Exercising under sunlight, which promotes sleep, and resetting negative sleep patterns are a couple of ways exercise could help. "People should experiment for themselves to see whether exercise promotes better sleep," says Shawn D. Youngstedt, Ph.D., a sleep researcher. "Sleep-deprived individuals should even try experimenting with different intensities of exercise at different times of the day."
Pam Greene's own journey to health and fitness started when a friend suffered through some health challenges. Realizing this was a wake up call to her to focus on her own health, she started learning about Fitness, Nutrition and Healthy Weight Loss. Pam now works for Beachbody, which provides Home Fitness Programs and Work Out Dvds including the well known P90X exercise program. Pam is passionate about sharing tips to help others eat better and exercise for better health.