Work out while @ work!

Eight months ago my husband had a pull-up bar installed in his office. He doesn’t work in a fitness studio or for a hip web company, but for one of the more traditional executive search firms on Park Avenue. When his colleagues realized why the superintendant was in his office, they were pretty surprised. But now, between meetings, he makes a few pulls. The bar also seems has made him more mindful of going to the gym – it seems to work both as a stimulus and as a visual clue.

Research shows that this was a smart move on his part. A sedentary lifestyle negatively affects cognitive performance and memory. Exercise has been shown to boost creative and intellectual horsepower, and to improve problem-solving skills. As John Medina, MD puts it: “exercise cleans your mind and helps you focus.”

From an organizational point of view, exercise increases your employees intellectual performance, it improves their overall engagement at work, and results in reduced sick leaves and absenteeism and, ultimately, in increased turnover. A 2007 research study published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology showed that employee engagement is particularly high in a work culture that embraces work-life fit practices. Visionary leaders such as Dr. Jim Goodnight at SAS offer their employees ample opportunity to work out: the firm has a free 66,000 square-foot fitness center and natatorium on-site that is available to all employees. Unsurprisingly, Fortune ranked the highly profitable SAS as #1 in 2010 among the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’.

Other company leaders also walk the talk. Boeing’s VP of leadership, for example, uses the treadmill in her office at regular intervals throughout the day.

Time management

The trouble may be that, even if we have the workout right in front of us, be it on the company premises or in our offices, we may not manage to find the time to work out by the end of the day. Time management is enough of a challenge for busy professionals as it is. So what can you do? How about using the treadmill while you are writing emails or are in a meeting? Have it set at a relatively low but consistent speed and – while it may take some practice – it will pay off. Walking is especially good for your brain as it raises blood circulation, and the glucose and oxygen that often gets used up with more strenuous exercise, will effectively oxygenate your brain. If the treadmill seems too extreme, try changing your seat for a bouncing ball, or have a pair of handles next to you on your desk that you can use while on the phone…

Research shows: cerebral blood vessels grow during exercise, regardless of age. So, what’s holding you back? Keep fit and improve your outcomes at work. That’s what I call a win-win!