When you’re up against it at work with meetings, deadlines and overflowing inboxes, it can be easy for everything else to slip. (Photo: Getty Images)
Your exercise regime is reduced to an expensive direct debit for the gym that you regularly toy with cancelling. Meal decisions, something you may have once pondered over, become determined by speed, convenience and proximity to the office. Stress drives the cravings for sugary foods that give you an instant (albeit temporary) fix.
By compromising your diet, fitness and general well-being for the sake of more hours at work, you may believe that you’re making the necessary sacrifices to achieve your goal — whether that be a promotion, a pay raise or simply proving your dedication to the job. However, research suggests that leading an unhealthy lifestyle may actually be detrimental to your productivity at work.
In a study conducted with 19,803 employees, those with an unhealthy diet were 66% more likely to experience a loss in productivity than those who regularly ate whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Additionally, employees who only exercised occasionally were 50% more likely to report having lower levels of productivity than employees who were regular exercisers.
When it comes to food and fitness, making decisions that seemingly give you more time and improve efficiency in the short term may actually have a long-term detrimental effect to your overall work game. But how do you juggle it all?
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Boosting Work Performance With Exercise
Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress, boost self-esteem, improve mental clarity and increase motivation, all of which are positive attributes for improved work performance.
In fact, a study at Stockholm University found that employees who devoted 2.5 of their work hours a week to exercise got as much done with their time as those employees who didn’t work out in their regular hours. They were also absent from work through sickness less, and self-assessed their productivity as higher.
So with this in mind, here are just a few ways to incorporate exercise into your busy working week…
- Use high-intensity interval training methods to sharply reduce the time needed to get the full benefit of a workout.
- Get a personal trainer so that the few hours you are able to spend exercising are as efficient as they can be.
- Turn your commute into a workout by cycling, running, getting off the train or bus a stop earlier or even just parking your car farther away from work to increase your walking time.
- Buy a pedometer, and use every opportunity to move about more, setting yourself weekly targets. For example phone meetings can be conducted whilst pacing up and down the office.
- Choose something over nothing; even 7 minutes of high-intensity exercise a day can make a difference to your physical and mental well being.
Boosting Work Performance With Diet
Taking time (or more specifically lack of it) out of the equation, finding the energy and motivation to exercise is still largely dependent on how you fuel your body through diet. Food choices and eating patterns are known to influence cognitive function, mental clarity and concentration levels, all of which directly impact on work performance.
But the work environment can be a haven to a plethora of unhealthy food options, and whilst you may know what you should avoid intuitively, stress, hunger and lack of time can all drive poor decision-making when it comes to food. Here are some top dietary tips to boost work productivity…
Plan ahead: By taking your own, ready-prepared lunch and snacks to work, you can make well thought-out choices rather than be driven by hunger. The hormone ghrelin, released by the stomach when you’re hungry, is thought to activate the brain’s reward system and draw us to high-calorie junk food. So planning ahead will help prevent this temptation.
Related: 50 Muscle-Building Foods
Load up on fruits & veggies: This advice in itself is by no means revolutionary, but a recent 2015 study found that the more fruits and vegetables people consumed (up to 7 portions), the happier, more engaged and more creative they tended to be.
Stay hydrated: If you’re feeling sluggish and fuzzy headed, try a glass of water before you instinctively default to caffeine. Dehydration is one of the leading causes of fatigue, and water is a hugely underestimated energy booster. Your brain is comprised of about 85% water, so to stay alert with mental clarity, you need to be hydrating steadily throughout the day.
Brain foods: There is a growing list of foods that have been shown to help improve cognitive function. As one example, a study published earlier this year found that eating walnuts may improve performance on cognitive function tests, including those for memory and concentration.
This article was written by Naomi Mead and was previously published on AskMen: The Productivity Diet & Exercise Plan.
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