The physical benefits of taking up a new sport are obvious, but what impact could moving more have on our minds and productivity?
As we enter 2022 many of us will have set out new years resolutions of frequent exercise, increased productivity and better academic performance. But what if getting fitter could actually help you become more productive and in turn, improve your grades? Well, I've got good news for you.
If you've got a long to-do list it might seem counterproductive to take time out of your day to exercise when you could be getting on with your workload but the science here suggests otherwise.
- Improved sleep
There is no substitute for a good night's sleep. If you've ever fallen into a particularly unproductive rut, you'll know that getting an early night can really shift your mood and help you to get the ball rolling again the next day.
Sleep is particularly important for productivity because it provides the brain and body with an opportunity to rest, process the day's information and recover from any activities.
So, exercising greatly affects your sleeping habits. But specifically how?
Studies have shown that exercise improves not only the quality of sleep you're getting- that is less interrupted and deeper sleep- but also the speed at which you fall asleep.
Data shows that adolescents who exercise regularly spend more time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is linked with heightened cognitive performance and academic achievement.
Exercise and sleep interact in a cyclical way. By this I mean, it's easier to sleep once you've exercised and easier to exercise once you've had a good night's sleep. So why not aim to tire yourself out with a little exercise and notice how your productivity skyrockets after a great night's sleep!
2. Greater alertness and energy
Another benefit to playing sports with regards to your productivity is that it massively increases your energy levels and your alertness. Exercise stimulates blood flow to the whole body, in particular the brain, which in turn sharpens your alertness.
When it comes to the relationship between exercise and energy levels, you might be surprised. Surely exercising depletes your energy, right?
In a word, no.
Firstly, physical exertion triggers changes to occur on a cellular level within the body. Taking a closer look, your body begins producing more mitochondria within your muscle cells. If you're studying biology you might already be aware of the fact that mitochondria are widely referred to as the powerhouses of cells as they convert our glucose and oxygen into fuel - or as we know it, energy! In short, exercise promotes mitochondria production and more mitochondria mean more energy.
Furthermore, after exercising, your body will see a surge in hormone levels which leave you feeling more energised and give you that post-workout buzz.
3. Improved wellbeing
If improved sleep and greater energy levels weren’t convincing enough alone, taking up sports has been proven to heighten our general sense of wellbeing too. Many stress-related factors come into play when considering productivity including self-esteem, anxiety levels and wellbeing, which can have huge impacts on our capacity to be productive. All of these factors are improved with physical activity. Studies have concluded that increased physical exertion improves our concentration, memory, learning and creativity, all the while mitigating stress.
Unsurprisingly, stress is a big blocker for productivity.
Chemically, exercise stimulates endorphins which are the chemicals responsible for elevating mood as well as reducing our level of stress hormones - cortisol and adrenaline. What's more, as fitness levels increase, we gain strength and stamina and behavioural changes begin to occur. As we start to notice these subtle changes, our self-image improves as well as our self-efficacy (our belief in our ability to get things done and a vital component of productivity).
In short, the evidence is compelling and who doesn't want to sleep better and feel more energetic? You don't need to go to the gym for hours on end, incorporating a mere 10-minute daily walk into your routine can amplify your productivity with almost immediately noticeable results.
So what are you waiting for, get your trainers on!
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