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Working out pays off at work

November 07, 2005|John Briley | Washington Post

What if exercising during the workday actually improved efficiency, along with mood and energy levels? In other words, what if increased productivity actually made up for the time workers were away from their desks?

A British study conducted at the University of Bristol showed that workers were more productive and better able to manage time demands -- and got along better with colleagues -- on days when they exercised at work than on days when they didn't.

The six-week study, of 130 women and 80 men ages 23 to 57, had participants work out (mainly aerobics, with some yoga and stretching) for 31 to 60 minutes each session. All participants had employers that offered on-site exercise programs.

They were instructed to exercise at least one day a week, but most exercised twice or more, said lead investigator Jim McKenna, a professor at Leeds Metropolitan University. "Two in three people reported improvements" in at least one measure of work performance, he added.

A few caveats: The workers were involved in workplace exercise programs before the study and reported feeling confident in their job performance. Further, the assessments of productivity are based on self-reports, a notoriously unreliable method.

Still, McKenna called the results "striking," noting he expected a boost in mood improvement from exercise but not productivity gains, which averaged 15%.

Since one hour is 12.5% of an eight-hour day, if workers are 15% more productive, the exercise makes up for itself..

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