Intuition might tell you that in order to be most productive at the office, you’ve got to sit at your desk all day long, tackling project after project after project. After all, assignments don’t complete themselves. So the longer you’re away from your desk, the longer it’ll take to get everything done—right?
Believe it or not, stepping away from your desk during the work day might actually help you complete projects quicker, as physical activity has proven to increase worker productivity. A recent study found that workers who exercise during their shifts produce more than their motionless peers; the researchers attribute this phenomenon to the fact that exercised employees have more stamina and get sick less frequently.
The next time the sun is shining, rather than just staring out the window, it might be time to drop what you’re doing and head outside instead. And you won’t even have to feel guilty: By getting your blood flowing during the day, you’ll be a more effective worker, as exercise:
- Increases your confidence. If you’ve ever taken a long break from exercising—and who hasn’t—you’ve likely noticed that your athletic prowess noticeably diminishes during your hiatus. You might not be able to jog three miles the first time you put your running shoes on this year; from the outset, it might seem impossible for you to cover that kind of distance again. But by sticking to your regimen, you slowly build up your endurance. And when you’ve once again conquered that three-mile jog, you almost can’t help but exude confidence in other areas of your life.
- Elevates your moods. Think about how good you feel after breaking a sweat; there’s a reason the term “runner’s high” exists. Exercise releases endorphins and serotonin which help reduce stress levels and curb depression. What’s more, exercise can be more effective than prescription drugs in treating mental health: According to a study from Duke University, exercise can actually improve your mood just as much as an antidepressant can.
- Enhances your focus. Studies have shown that students who routinely exercise perform better than their classmates who do not. Exercise gets the blood flowing to your brain—it wakes you up, so to speak. Those who exercise have more energy and are able to concentrate more clearly on the task at hand. Have a complex problem you want to think over? It might be time to clear your mind and go for a run.
- Improves your memory. Recent research says that cardiovascular exercise might also increase the size of your hippocampus, the area of the brain that’s most directly associated with memory function. Additionally, exercise helps build new blood vessels and even new brain cells, so you can get smarter while you get healthier.
By devoting as little as 20 minutes of your day to exercise, you’re bound to see your workplace output increase. These benefits are amplified when you encourage your team members to do the same. Just like in the aggregate those who exercise are probably healthier than those who don’t, businesses that support an active workforce are likely to find themselves in better shape.