A friend of mine has a great mid-day exercise routine: He dedicates half his lunch hour to taking a brisk walk around the area near his office. He says that getting out of the office and being physically active relieves stress, revives his energy level and increases his productivity in the afternoon.
A growing body of research, including findings recently published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, shows he may be on to something.
The latest study involved 177 volunteers employed at six offices of a large public dental health-care organization in Sweden. Participants were divided into three groups: One group was assigned to 2.5 hours per week of mandatory physical exercise, another group's work week was reduced by 2.5 hours but individuals were allowed to decide for themselves how to spend the time, and a third group was asked to maintain their usual work schedule. Science Daily reports that researchers found:
... all three groups were able to maintain or even increase their production level, in this case the number of patients treated, during the study period compared with the corresponding time the previous year. Those who exercised also reported improvements in self-assessed productivity -- they perceived that they got more done at work, had a greater work capacity, and were sick less often.
Researchers say the findings dismiss the notion that implementing exercise periods into the workday will subsequently reduce productivity, and they provide strong support for employers to consider incorporating such health interventions.