Daytime Fitness Training Drives Super Productive Workdays

Being a senior exec’ is exciting – and hard work. Conference calls, PowerPoint, speaker engagements, networking lunches, award dinners, the red-eye – the blurry line between work and life…

Do you wonder how your colleagues manage to stay healthy, get around the Sunday mud run, have the capacity to focus on their health and nutrition?

What if I said you could do this too? That YOU could get yourself into those good habits. Would you make those changes?

In this blog I will highlight the current evidence so that you can make an informed decision about whether a small change in your daily routine is worth it to you to become a more productive and healthy senior executive…

The Research

Over the past few decades there have been a growing number of people interested in researching the link between aerobic exercise and cognitive function in working adults.

An example of one such study was by Kramer et al. (2006). In this study, working adults were randomly assigned to either an aerobic exercise intervention group (moderate walking) or a control group (stretching and toning). Both groups attended the same number of intervention sessions and received the same amount of health instruction (one hour per week), so the main difference between the two groups was the aerobic aspect of the intervention for the walking group. Cognitive testing on a comprehensive neuropsychological battery was conducted both before and after spending six months in the exercise intervention programme.

Over the six-month period, the investigation found that the walking group not only became more aerobically fit, but also showed significantly enhanced (P=<0.05) “executive function”, as indexed by marked improvement in task switching, working memory and selective attention tasks, compared with the stretching and toning control group.

In addition, supplementary research by Colcombe et al. (2006) followed the same intervention protocols, but rather than using the comprehensive neuropsychological testing battery, they used neuroimaging through an MRI scan to identify any physical changes in the brain. They found that the group who participated in the moderate walking had significant (P=<0.05) increase in both temporal gray and anterior white matter in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, as well as increased cerebral blood volume in this part of the brain. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that regulates “executive function” (Funahashi, 2001), and such increases in brain volume have been shown to be predictive of improved cognitive performance in adults (Marks et al, 2007).

Conversely, an acute one-week investigation by Emery et al. (2001) randomly assigned working adults to either a forty-five minute moderate intensity aerobic exercise and strengthening class, or class based informative forty-five minute video about exercise and cholesterol. All participants were tested in a comprehensive neuropsychological battery, similar to that seen in the investigation by Kramer et al. (2006), both before and after the one-week intervention. The results reflected a significant improvement (P=<0.05) in the Verbal Fluency Test, a measure of verbal processing, in the forty-five minute aerobic exercise and strengthening intervention group compared to the control group.

Put Simply

I know what you’re thinking, what does all of this mean, and how does this help me? Allow me to summarise this for you in real terms.

The first two investigations by Kramer et al. (2006) and Colcombe et al. (2006) revealed that by moderately walking for just one hour a week, just one hour, significantly increases your brain’s ability to switch tasks without losing focus; improves your ability to ignore distractions and remain focused on the task at hand, whilst also increasing your ability to remember key information regarding important meetings or documents. Moreover, the third investigation by Emery et al. (2001), reflects that your ability to communicate clearly and process information you hear, such as that heard in meetings, will be far more effective from just forty-five minutes of exercise per week.

So hopefully now alarm bells are ringing for a few of you and you are thinking I could really benefit from that, I need to be more productive in my work day, but you are unsure how to get these benefits? Well as we have seen, these observed improvements in cognitive function have occurred from as little as forty-five minutes a week of aerobic exercise and/or strength work. Now I can already hear some of you saying, “but with all the work I’ve got I can’t possibly get to the gym after work”, but to that I say, no problem, you have a LUNCH BREAK! Start small, begin by sacrificing just fifteen minutes of your lunch break for three to four days of your working week initially, walking up and down the flights of stairs in your office building, or even going for a brisk walk around the building a few times. However, what I must reiterate at this point is you should not expect to see results immediately; the improvements in cognitive function observed resulted from six month interventions, the changes did not happen overnight. You must be patient! But hey, if you begin to extend the time you walk at a moderate intensity every day during your lunch and begin to exceed that one hour per week threshold, you never know, these results may come quicker for you!

Conclusion

For me, every single improvement in cognitive function observed in these investigations are all contributory factors of productivity in the work place, and resultantly, by adding just forty-five minutes to one hour of aerobic exercise to your week, you too can become much more productive within office hours. This will mean that when you’re at home, you can focus on the things most important to you, such as spending time with your loved ones, friends or family. You’ll soon find then that you’re much happier, your stress is managed far better, and your overall health is improved as you are participating in regular aerobic exercise.

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