By Sherri Henderson, Director of Health Services
What do you think your co-workers are doing?
If you guessed walking, you are partially correct. Liza Gellerstedt and Henriette Williams-Alexander, counselors in the Counseling Center/Disability Services office are not just walking… they are working as well! Once a week Gellerstedt and her supervisor, Williams-Alexander, head out to the greenway that leads to the NC Museum of Art and spend time discussing work-related issues while getting valuable time outside away from their desks to get their hearts pumping.
“I sit all day at a desk and I actually find it easier to think and brainstorm while walking,” Gellerstedt said. “It also provides me with some much appreciated time outside.”
There is scientific evidence to support what she says. Here is an excerpt from an article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, September 30, 2011, “Want To Improve Your Productivity? Workout at Work,” by Joel Grant, an exercise physiologist.
According to this article “spending hours at a desk working doesn’t necessarily make us more productive. Taking time to engage in physical activity in the middle of the workday increased productivity among a group of workers who exercised for 2.5 hours a week during their regular workday. Bottom line: People who took time out to take care of themselves were more productive than those who didn’t.”
According to Grant, there’s some serious science behind this idea (exercise improves productivity). Exercise releases numerous chemicals in the brain that can improve your mood, memory and thought processes. Along with the happy hormones, cardiovascular conditioning can increase the oxygenated blood flow to the brain, bringing with it plenty of nutrients to promote better function.
Len Kravitz, the program coordinator of exercise science and a researcher at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, asked the question “What Cognitive Processes Seem to be Optimally Affected by Exercise?” and found the following through his research. Kramer, Erickson and Colcombe (2006) explain that the largest positive effects observed from exercise on cognition are in areas referred to as 'executive central command'. The researchers continue that the components of brain executive central command include working memory, planning, scheduling, multitasking and dealing with ambiguity (e.g., such as doubt and uncertainty). The authors emphasize that these components are often areas of substantial decline with aging. (Click on “science” to read Dr. Kravitz’s article.)
(Kramer, A.F., Erickson, K.I., and Colcombe, J. (2006). Exercise, cognition, and the aging brain. Journal of Applied Physiology, 101, 1237-1242.)
Grant suggests that just “two minutes at a time can add up, try to do these exercises a few times a day when your energy seems to be sinking; marching in place, squats, jumping jacks and toe touches (spend 30 seconds on each one). You might be surprised that exercise works better as an afternoon pick-me-up than a candy bar or coffee. Two minutes of fitness will definitely get the heart pumping and oxygen flowing to refresh the mind. Sure, it’s not a full workout, but it might be enough to clear your mind so when you return to work you can refocus your thoughts, solve that problem that has been plaguing you and start crossing things off your list.”
We can’t use the excuse that we don’t have a place to work out (greenway) or a worksite without showers (Weatherspoon locker rooms) or employers that aren’t supportive (with supervisor approval you can use 2.5 hours of your work time to be active and work out at Meredith). Take advantage of the greenway system right in our front yard and the wonderful campus resources, with support of the administration at Meredith. So, walk the greenway or bring your bike to work and ride the greenway at lunch and rejuvenate and kick your brain into high gear.
To read the complete article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, please go to: http://engagedhealthsolutions.com/2011/09/want-to-improve-your-productivity-workout-at-work/
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