Although the benefits of physical activity on general well-being are widely recognized, there is a lack of research on how it affects work outcomes, including work performance and health. Approximately 200 employees from the UK and China participated in a 10-day study in which the authors obtained self-reported and objective physical activity data (via a wearable smart band device) , as well as self- and supervisor-reported work outcomes. They discovered some important findings about daily physical activity affecting employees and organizations, as well as some research-backed ways to reap the many benefits of increasing your physical activity. activity.
all over the world, 1.4 billion adults are not active enough, with one in three women and one in four men not participating in adequate physical activity. In fact, there has been no improvement in physical activity levels since 2001, and physical inactivity is twice as bad in high-income countries than in low-income countries.
To prevent the negative effects of physical inactivity, in 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a global action plan aimed at reducing physical inactivity by 15% by 2030. By promoting physical activity and encouraging individuals to participate in regular exercise, the WHO aims to maximize the benefits of physical activity: prevention and management of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (including coronary heart disease and stroke), various types of cancer, improvement of general physical and mental well-being , sharpening cognitive capacity, and ensuring healthy growth and development.
Although the benefits of physical activity on general well-being are widely recognized, there is a lack of research on how it affects work outcomes, including work performance and health. This is all the more important because the various advanced work modes allow for greater flexibility and flexibility. However, we find ourselves sitting more and moving less, as most of us no longer have to commute to work or walk from meeting to meeting.
How physical activity affects work performance
Given that most of our waking hours are spent working, in an effort to support the WHO initiative to increase physical activity, our recent research points out some important work-related implications of physical activity.
Approximately 200 employees from the UK and China participated in a 10-day study in which we obtained self-reported and objective data on physical activity (via a wearable smart band device ), as well as self- and supervisor-reported work outcomes. We discovered some interesting findings about daily physical activity that affect employees and organizations:
Physical activity motivation predicts physical activity.
That seems like an obvious identity encouraged to participate in an activity leads to ACT said activity, but anyone who has made and then abandoned a New Year’s resolution knows that this is not the case. of people autonomous motivationa strong individual difference that reflects the degree to which one feels self-determined to engage in a behavior, a critical personal resource which can motivate individuals to engage in physical activity. Importantly, the more autonomous form of motivation – in other words, the more people consider physical activity to be a fun and enjoyable activity rather than something to be feared – the more likely they are to participate on a daily basis. which is physical activity.
Physical activity accumulates next-day, work-related resources.
We found that daily physical activity created a pack of next-day resources, called “resource caravans,” that contributed to work-related outcomes.
The first resource immediately provided by physical activity is quality sleep, or a person’s level of satisfaction with their daily sleep experience. Physical activity promotes protein synthesis and facilitates quality sleep as a homeostatic feedback process that benefits the body and brain. The second resource gain is FORCE, an affective resource associated with strength and vitality. The third derived resource is focus on the taska cognitive resource that supports enhanced information processing, attention, and concentration.
Physical activity improves the next day’s work and health.
Current research on the impact of physical activity in the work context has focused on physical activity during the day certain times (eg, exercising on the lunch break), neglecting to consider physical activity throughout the day. This further contributes to inconsistent findings, as employees may notice a depletion of resources (such as energy and concentration) immediately after physical activity, which may interfere with their work.
All of this is to say that it can be done take some time to experience the work-related benefits of physical activity. Sure enough, our research has found the long-term benefits of physical activity to next day task performance, creativity, and health symptoms. In both studies, we consistently found that the daily physical activity of employees throughout the day creates resource caravans consisting of physical (sleep), affective (energy), and cognitive (task focus) resources, which further contribute to the next day’s work performance and health. results in different ways. Physical and affective resources serve to reduce the daily pain of the body; Cognitive resources contribute significantly to the performance of daily tasks; and affective resources and cognitive resources are stronger predictors of self-rated creative performance.
Self-efficacy at work shapes the capacity to obtain resources from physical activity
Job self-efficacy, which reflects an employee’s perception of their capacity to do their job, maximizes the resource-generating benefits of daily physical activity on sleep quality and task focus. People with higher levels of self-efficacy tend to have stronger positive beliefs about their motivation and ability to gain work-related resources from daily physical activity. .
How to be more physical
If you find yourself less active while working remotely, here are three research-backed ways to reap the many benefits of increasing your physical activity:
Focus on building a habit of daily physical activity.
Anything worth doing should be done slowly. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see work-related benefits from physical activity. Our research specifically examines the time-delayed, next-day benefits of physical activity, demonstrating significant resource gains that contribute to performance and health benefits. Day by day, concentrate on creating new healthy habits, and the results will be revealed in time.
Remember that some is better than none.
We often talk ourselves out of physical activity because we’re tired, hungry, stressed, or busy (including ourselves!). Our findings echo the WHO’s view, that “some physical activity is better than no activity.” To realize the health benefits and reduce the harmful health effects of sitting, the WHO recommends that adults aged 18 to 64 years should participate in at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity or at least 1.25 hours of vigorous physical activity per week.
Our research identifies moderate-intensity physical activity as the most effective in generating physical, affective, and cognitive resource gains that further benefit next-day work, creativity, and health outcomes. Because low-intensity physical activity may require longer participation to reap resource gains, and high-intensity physical activity may be more self-injurious, moderate-intensity exercise is a is a more feasible goal for many. In addition, we know that even short periods of physical activity, even 20 minutes per day, are enough to generate resources that contribute to the next day’s work of employees and health.
Motivated or not, just go for it!
Our research reveals that even employees who don’t like to exercise can reap benefits from daily physical activity. We also found that autonomously motivated individuals are more likely to engage in physical activity, implying the “fun thing” as a key driver of engaging in physical activity – so find an activity that makes exercise possible. which is less heavy and more fun. If you don’t fancy a bootcamp session, try a challenging hike or a boxing class. The next time you want to swap exercise for a comfortable couch, aim for just 20 minutes.
. . .
If you’re looking to up your game at work, try to incorporate more physical activity into your days. Your body will thank you, and your mind will reward you with more energy, better task focus, and better creativity.