Exercise May Boost Performance on the Job

Study Shows Workers Are More Productive When They Exercise

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on June 08, 2005

June 8, 2005 -- Exercise may help you be at the top of your game at work.

Researchers found that when workers used their company gym, they were more productive and got along better with their co-workers afterward.

"The results are striking," says Jim McKenna, PhD, MSc, a professor of sport at Leeds Metropolitan University in England, in a news release. "We expected to hear more about the downside, such as afternoon fatigue. But out of 18 themes raised by study participants, 14 were positive. It was almost overwhelming."

The findings were presented in Nashville, Tenn., at the American College of Sports Medicine's 52nd Annual Meeting.

Last Item on the Day's to-Do List

McKenna's study included 210 workers who had a plum corporate perk: a company gym. The workers, most of whom had sedentary jobs, rated their frame of mind, work performance, and workload on seven-point scales.

The surveys were done right before quitting time. By then, participants had had their day's share of meetings, duties, and interactions with co-workers. They took the surveys on days when they had used their company's gym and on days when they hadn't exercised. That way, they were only competing against themselves, and any particularly hard or easy days were noted.

Working Out, Courtesy of the Company

Most people took aerobics classes lasting 45-60 minutes; other options included yoga or stretching classes. The most common workout time was during the lunch hour, American College of Sports Medicine spokesman Dan Henkel tells WebMD.

Ratings for mental-interpersonal performance and the ability to manage time and output demands were consistently and significantly higher on exercise days.

At least 65% of the workers improved in all three areas on exercise days. The differences were "small, but consistently positive," say the researchers.

Win-Win Job Benefit

Companies and employees both stand to benefit from at-work gyms, says McKenna, a former physical education teacher who's also served as a fitness advisor for several British rugby teams. "Companies see more productive employees who also work better together," he says.

"From the public health side, health care costs can be expected to go down for employees who regularly exercise at work. Think of it: fewer sick days, better attendance, and more tolerant co-worker relations."

Show Sources

SOURCES: American College of Sports Medicine's 52nd Annual Meeting, Nashville, Tenn., June 1-4, 2005. News release, American College of Sports Medicine. Dan Henkel, spokesman, American College of Sports Medicine.

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