How Exercise Benefits the Workplace

Studies have shown that exercise can help reduce stress[1], boost your mood[2], decrease anxiety[3] and alleviate depression[4]. However, what you may not know is that exercise is also linked to important attributes that help us be more productive while we work.

The established wellbeing framework – PERMA, which stands for positive emotions; mental engagement; strong relationships; meaning in life; and accomplishing goals states that in order to achieve the happiness we all crave, these are the areas we need to be focusing on. Evidence suggests that by following this framework we will be more likely to avoid burnout at work, sleep better and be more engaged at work[5]. Fulfilling all of these criteria may seem like an impossible task. However, exercise is one way to fast track us to achieving all five at once.

Positive Emotions, Exercise and Work:

 Any activity which works our muscles and increases our heart rate produces endorphins, otherwise known as the natural painkiller and mood booster. As well as boosting our mood, endorphins enable us to keep going even when we are tired. Therefore the more exercise we get (especially during the day, at lunch break for example), the more likely we are to have more energy to keep going for longer at work.

Mental Engagement, Exercise and Work:

 There is no doubt about it, the office can be a distracting place to work. There is always a colleague to chat to or tea to be made and drunk. However, we all know that when we get into the “zone” we are able to be as productive as we need to be. The hard part is how to get into that zone when there is so much around to distract us. Taking a break in the day to exercise allows us to detach from work and recharge. You will find that doing this means you can return to your desk and slip into that “zone” far more easily than you could before.

Strong relationships, Exercise and Work:

 We all know that the better our relationships with those we work with, the more productive and proactive we will be. Exercising together with work colleagues can help strengthen those relationships. The shared physical pain of exercising together can help us emphasise better with each other. We can also learn to encourage each other while exercising which will translate into more encouragement of one and other in the workplace.

Meaning in Life, Exercise and Work:

 Well, we all want to understand the meaning of life and I’m not sure this article will be able to pinpoint it exactly for you. However, one of the best ways to find meaning in life is to have a purpose. There are studies which have found ‘that purpose in life, the belief that one’s life is meaningful and goal-directed, is associated with greater engagement in self-reported physical activity[6]’. When people feel that they have purpose or meaning in their lives, they are better equipped to deal with adversity and problem solve – both handy skills to have in the workplace!

Accomplishments, Exercise and Work:

 It’s easy to see how feeling competent and able to achieve is valuable to our staff in the workplace. However research[7] has shown that it’s our mindset, not our actual levels of competency is most important. For example, one study looking at ‘Fixed And Growth Mindset In Education And How Grit Helps Students Persist In The Face Of Adversity’, showed that the students who had a growth mindset – meaning that they believed they could improve, were more likely to work harder on their own personal development in areas they fell down in. These students would also embrace feedback positively as a means to help themselves improve. They viewed setbacks as opportunities for growth and didn’t see them as failings which is how the students with a fixed mindset viewed them.

However, if you or colleagues you work with do have a fixed mindset, and get easily discouraged by bumps in the road or difficulties at work, don’t worry, your mindset can be changed through exercise! Exercise enables us to see that through hard work and perseverance, change happens. Goals you previously thought were unobtainable – lifting a particular size weight, or running for a certain amount of time, are achieved if you put the effort in. Exercise empowers us, showing us how physically and mentally strong we really have the capacity to be.

What Oyster are doing to go PERMA

 Oyster have a very serious desire to look after their staff, understanding that happy people are more productive which in turn benefits the company overall. As this article states, exercise is one of the best ways for us all to achieve all the goals of PERMA. With this in mind, Oyster’s MD, Sasza Bandiera reached out to personal trainer, Michael Calvin from TeamWhyWeight, and asked him to implement a programme that would encourage his staff to get out and about, be active, exercise and also enable them to set challenges for themselves, learn about nutrition and self care.

For two years now Mike has held bootcamps for Oyster staff during the “warmer” British months. They have taken place all over London in various parks, squares and other areas of interest. Mike’s aim was to take the participants out of their comfort zone. Get them to prove to themselves that they could do things they perhaps previously thought that they couldn’t. As discussed above, this helps challenge those with a fixed mindset. It shows them that they have the ability to grow and achieve. Ultimately helping them overcome challenges and setbacks in the workplace.

Mike also strongly believes that his programme helps dispel many of the myths we see on social media and in the press. What we should be eating, how we should be exercising, what we should look like etc. Oyster have an extremely diverse workplace and they pride themselves on being unique. Mike’s mindset is that we embrace our uniqueness and work to goals to suit our individual selves. Not goals set for us by others, or by society’s version of “the ideal”.

By creating a Bootcamp structure and planning new and more difficult challenges and tasks for the team to do every week, Mike’s programme encourages team bonding and relationship building. Really necessary components for a happy workplace. It also means that when participants set specific nutrition or health goals that they wanted to follow for the week ahead, they would be accountable to each other – helping each other achieve their desired goals.

The feedback from the staff around the bootcamps has been resoundingly positive. Some of what has been said about the sessions include:

“Personally I think the best part is doing it as a team and it’s a fun way to bond with people you wouldn’t usually.”

“Mikey always does team games against each other so it’s a joint effort.”

“It’s a perfect way for new people especially to mix with different people and break down the boundaries”

“Nice to be outside in the fresh air rather than in the gym”

“We’d always have a laugh during the session, it was always fun!”

“Boot camp was a great initiative that Oyster put into place. It motivated me to stay fit and challenged me to get up earlier than usual on a Friday morning.”

“I felt great because where I would have otherwise stayed up late doing mindless things on a Thursday, now I was more mindful of my health the night before so I could be on form for Friday morning.”

Oyster plan to keep this initiative running and are constantly thinking of new ways to keep their staff fit, active, happy and healthy. They understand that a happy team achieves the dream!

If you’d like to see more of what PT Michael Calvin gets up to, you can follow him on instagram @TeamWhyWeight.

 

 

 

 

[1] Calogiuri, Giovanna & Evensen, Katinka & Weydahl, Andi & Andersson, Kim & Patil, Grete & Ihlebæk, Camilla & Raanaas, Ruth. (2016). Green exercise as a workplace intervention to reduce job stress. Results from a pilot study. Work. 53. 99-111. 10.3233/WOR-152219.

[2] John S. Y. Chan, Guanmin Liu, Danxia Liang, Kanfeng Deng, Jiamin Wu, Jin H. Yan. (2019) Special Issue – Therapeutic Benefits of Physical Activity for Mood: A Systematic Review on the Effects of Exercise Intensity, Duration, and Modality. The Journal of Psychology 153:1, pages 102-125.

[3] Mochcovitch, Marina Dyskant et al. “The effects of regular physical activity on anxiety symptoms in healthy older adults: a systematic review.” Revista brasileira de psiquiatria 38 3 (2016): 255-61 .

[4] McPhie, Meghan & Rawana, Jennine. (2015). The effect of physical activity on depression in adolescence and emerging adulthood: A growth-curve analysis. Journal of adolescence. 40C. 83-92. 10.1016/j.adolescence.2015.01.008.

[5] https://theconversation.com/exercise-can-fast-track-your-workplace-well-being-heres-how-107473 accessed 9/10/2019

[6] Hooker, Stephanie & Masters, Kevin. (2014). Purpose in life is associated with physical activity measured by accelerometer. Journal of health psychology. 21. 10.1177/1359105314542822.

[7] Hochanadel, Aaron & Finamore, Dora. (2015). Fixed And Growth Mindset In Education And How Grit Helps Students Persist In The Face Of Adversity. Journal of International Education Research (JIER). 11. 47. 10.19030/jier.v11i1.9099.