Exercise is a word most people despise. It constantly reminds them how physically weak they are. Another reason that there aren’t any constant changes. It takes lots and lots of work. Combine the two, and you have people absolutely hating every second of a workout. As it turns out, habitual physical activity can have positive effects spill over the workplace.
According to death statistics from 2015 compiled by the CDC, the leading causes in the United States are heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory diseases. Collectively, these diseases killed 1,353,148 Americans that year.
A recent study shows that we can help employees reduce their risk of heart disease by implementing a wellness program. The U.S. government recommends employees get at least 2.5 hours a week of moderate aerobic activity or 1.5 hours of vigorous activity to reduce rates of heart disease.
COGNITIVE SKILL TRAINING
The positive effects of promoting fitness at work are far too many. According to a 2005 study performed by health professor Jim McKenna of Leeds Metropolitan University, a good workout can cause an overall work performance boost of about 15 percent. Moreover, Harvard researchers noted that post-workout flow creates the optimal conditions for performing tasks that require cognitive thinking.
The link between fitness and the performance of simple cognitive tasks was first suggested by studies in the 1960s. In the 1990s, a cognitive psychologist at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois published a paper in Nature showing that previously sedentary adults who took an aerobic fitness plan for six months boosted their performance in cognitive drills that required executive control. This kind of executive control helps you to switch between different tasks without making errors. It is also a key contributor to a complex set of processes like attention, working memory, decision making, planning, temporal integration and set shifting.
The effects of physical activity extend beyond cognitive skill training. "There's good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people. And people who were active and stopped tend to be more depressed than those who maintain or initiate an exercise program," says James Blumenthal, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Duke University.
In a study conducted by Blumenthal and his colleagues: sedentary adults with major depressive disorder who reported regular exercise had lower depression scores a year later than their less active counterparts.
People who exercise on a regular basis, prone to anxiety are less likely to panic when they experience fight-or-flight sensations. This is because the body produces many of the same physical reactions. The reactions are increased heart rate and heavy perspiration, in response to exercise.
Moreover, exercise also helps reduce stress and gain better night’s sleep. A study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that endorphin-boosting, heart-pumping workouts promote happiness.
Habitual physical activity is directly associated with stress resilience. According to a study by Princeton University, it reorganizes the brain so its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function.
Unfortunately, it takes months before any physical results of the physical workout are apparent. But, at the end of the day, it’s all about tuning into a mental state after exercise. That’s why your favorite employee perk should be an addition of a wellness program.