Now that the festive season has ended, many of us are back to work full-speed. I’ve always had the impression that for many people work seems to get busier and more intense during the winter months. Maybe this is a peculiarity of living in a northern climate—the idea that the cold months sometimes inhibit some of the leisure things we’d like to do, so we should just get as much work done as we can!
If you are one of those people for whom the winter is your busiest time work-wise, you might be tempted to cut short your exercise time. Please don’t do that!
There are studies that show that workers who take time to exercise during their workday are more productive and in a much better mood. Mood is so important in winter—sometimes your energy levels are affected by the decreased amounts of sunlight. Sometimes bad weather makes you stir-crazy and irritable. Sometimes you find yourself daydreaming about summer and this daydreaming just makes you irritable that it’s 20 below zero outside. In my own case, I love winter sports and I try not to get the winter blahs. But if you do get the blahs, there is a solution: Exercise, because no matter how busy you are because it’s going to make you feel a whole lot better.
Research backs this up. One study in England involved several hundred workers in three different job environments. Some were in high tech, others worked in education, and others in insurance. They were asked to choose a physical activity during break times or lunch hour and to do this for a period of time. They were then asked to complete a questionnaire about their job performance and their mood on days when they took the time to exercise during the workday and on days when they didn’t.
They were free to choose the physical activity of their choice. Most spent 30 to 60 minutes during lunch in activities that ranged from group exercise and strength training to yoga and pick-up games of basketball. Some just went for a brisk walk. The common denominator is that they were all doing something that kept their body moving.
More than two thirds of the workers found that their time management skills, mental performance and ability to meet deadlines improved on the days when they exercised. According to the researchers, the amount of overall performance boost was 15%, which is a significant percentage. The research also showed that it doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do as long as it’s exercise!
It wasn’t just productivity that improved. There was also a marked improvement in people’s ability to deal with stress. The participants of the study reported that on the days they exercised, they felt less ruffled, more tolerant of annoyances, and less likely to become irritable. They also said they didn’t experience the “post-lunch dip”—the feelings of fatigue that sometimes affect people in the afternoon. These people were able to keep their energy high all day.
Now imagine what would happen if you made a habit of daily exercise during your workday (and don’t forget that evening exercise can be good for you too!). Picture yourself getting more done with more energy and less stress. See yourself arriving home with plenty of energy left over for your family. Your entire quality of life will improve because a coffee break or lunch hour got you moving! So what’s the bottom line here? It’s to give yourself a break!
David Patchell-Evans is CEO, GoodLife Fitness, and bestselling author of The Real Sexy, Smart and Strong.