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Work out to work well – World Health Day

By Oliver Webster on Apr 07, 2020

Britain cycling team

Those close to me know I love sport, but not many people know my background. At 16 I was selected to represent the Great Britain Cycling Team: first at the European Cyclocross Championships, then the World Cyclocross Championships. I am extremely proud of my achievements but unfortunately, I just wasn’t good enough to make the cut at the top level.

My career is now starting to take shape, landing a role in Project Management. Like most jobs in an agency, it’s tough but really rewarding at the same time. At times, the workload stacks up to the point where life outside of work takes a hit. The first thing to get left by the wayside is exercise and the “I don’t have time” excuses begin. While the thought of going for a run, bike ride, or even a short walk may feel like hard work, it’s actually very important physically and mentally.

Exercise and productivity have a lot in common. Studies have shown that workday exercise not only improves well-being, but participants noted a 72% improvement in time management and workload completed on days when they exercised.

It’s also well documented that regular exercise reduces stress and anxiety, which in turn can improve our sleep and moods. Physical activity helps bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. These endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body and diminish the perception of pain, like the effects of morphine. From my experience, a good night’s sleep after a workout enables us to create better relationships with our colleagues and leads to a better performance at work. In simple terms, exercise is essential to be more effective and efficient.

Studies also show that as the heart rate goes up, the body starts to pump more oxygen to the brain, which facilitates information processing and better memory functions. This helps us retain more information, work more efficiently and be more productive. Relate this back to when you’re working on a pitch or stressed with the heavy workload. Times when you simply don’t have the mental capacity to think clearly and freely. So get out of the office, get the heart pumping, take in some sweet oxygen and release that creativity. You may find that the big idea, just falls at your feet.

You probably didn’t realise it growing up, and I certainly didn’t, but there is a good reason why schools enforce regular breaks on students throughout the day. It’s not just an opportunity to mess around with your mates, or flirt with your crush. The big motive behind them is because breaks increase our productivity and provide us with opportunities to develop creativity and social skills. Why is it when we leave school, that just stops.

Tips for staying active:

  • Take regular breaks during the day. Go make a cuppa and do some star jumps while the kettle is boiling
  • Take meetings stood up. Office workers, who make up half of the UK workforce, are particularly inactive. A 2015 study found that, on workdays, they sat for 10.5 hours of the 16 hours they spent awake
  • Get up & get out, go for a jog. 20 minutes is all that is needed to get the heart pumping and endorphins flowing
  • Be smart and exercise around the office / home. There are some really easy ways to get a quick fix. Here are 33 ways you can exercise at work