Exercise and Productivity – adding hours to your day

Productivity is important. Exercise is important. And, you’re busy.

“I can’t find the time…” It’s easily the number one reason people give for not adopting healthy lifestyle habits. But, what if exercise actually made you more productive? What if, with increased productivity, you actually had more time in your day?

When you were younger, you had an elementary understanding of finances. Maybe you had a checking account that you would balance each week. Money in, money out. Don’t write a check for money you don’t have. Pretty simple, right? Your next financial experience was likely the purchase of a home. But, that mortgage is technically money you don’t have right? I thought you weren’t supposed to spend money you don’t have. Your understanding of equity and the housing market probably led you to know that this was an investment; that, ultimately, your investment would be worth more than the mortgage.

Why do you treat your time like a simple checking account? Why do you still believe that a 1/2 hour spent on your nutrition or fitness won’t yield a 2, 3, or 4 times return on investment? What if the discipline you develop through a more regimented routine yielded more productivity in the office? Here are some ways that exercise can measurably improve your productivity.

You’ll have more energy.

Exercise promotes the production of mitochondria in your body’s cells. More mitochondria = more energy. Think of it like a thermostat – when your home reaches a certain temperature, the thermostat kicks in. Working out is like a thermostat. When you exercise, your brain is triggered to generate more energy to account for the increased physical activity. Remember: your brain and body haven’t quite evolved for office work. So, if you don’t exert yourself physically, your body’s default response is to maintain a low-energy mode.

You’ll be happier.

Exercise produces endorphins shortly after a workout. Endorphins are what contribute to the common “Runners High.” Additionally, completing a workout will give you a “victory” for the day. As you work your way up the chain of management or build your own company, projects tend to get longer and more tedious. A workout has a definitive beginning and end – a feeling that can be very satisfying amidst long deadlines.

You’ll have perspective.

Humans are keenly adapted for survival. Our deep-rooted “fight or flight” response allows us ignore extreme pain, exert a tremendous amount of physical force, and evade danger at a very fast rate. This came in handy as our ancestors roamed the wilderness surrounded by all kinds of dangerous sharp-toothed predators. There are no saber-toothed tigers in your office, but you still have that same fight-or-flight response. Only now, you’re not using those fight-or-flight brain chemicals to run from a wolf, you’re using them to empty your inbox. This response increases cortisol – a hormone related to stress and weight gain. By exerting yourself physically, you’re training your body to have a more appropriate – and differentiated – response to physical stress in the gym and less physical stress in the office.

You’ll be more disciplined with the time you do have.

When I was in my last semester of college, I needed 18 credit hours to graduate. Between that and a part-time job, I couldn’t fathom a scenario in which I would be busier than that semester. Then I graduated smack-dab in the middle of a recession. I had 3 jobs, was planning a wedding, and trying to move to a new city. An 18-hour semester would have been a respite from that schedule. Then I got my first “real” job. Now, I had deadlines, managers, a start time, calendar, meetings, and projects. I was busier than ever! Then, I got promoted to manager. WHAT?! What was I complaining about before? Then I started a business. Then I started another business… and then another. What the hell is wrong with me?!

I think you see where I’m going. You actually are capable of MUCH more than you think. Unfortunately, we tend to feel like our current schedule is the maximum we can handle. Much like we tend to fill out the houses in which we live. When you’re in a dorm room, you have a dorm room’s worth of crap. Move to a 10,000 square foot house and you magically find 10,000 square feet worth of possessions.

Begin to think of your time as intelligently as you think of money and investments. A dollar invested isn’t a dollar spent. An hour can be spent or it can be invested. Your choice.