Exercise. Surely you’ve heard that physical activity improves your mood, combats chronic diseases, helps you manage your weight, boosts your energy, promotes better sleep… the list goes on and on. But have you also heard the less often mentioned positive effect that exercise has on your performance at work? In fact, the Latin origin of the word ‘exercise’ actually means ‘removal of restraint,’ so in the professional or learning sense, we can think of exercise as the process that helps us let go of everything that clutters our minds and keeps us from thinking or performing to the best of our abilities.
Indeed, research has shown that improving your level of physical fitness increases brain function in areas that are crucial to memory and learning, as well as attention, organization, and planning. Who among us hasn’t experienced an afternoon in the office when we’re struggling to focus, or fighting to give direction to the many ideas tumbling around in our heads? Some days, our brains just seem to be a bit sluggish, or maybe we have so many tasks to accomplish that it feels nearly impossible to focus enough attention on just one. This is when we could benefit most from removing the restraints and breaking through the clutter.Recent trends in corporate and employee wellness suggest that many employers realize the benefits of having healthy, active employees: increased productivity, ability to think creatively, fewer days missed due to illness, less stress – to name a few. Thankfully, Think Up is a company that recognizes this, and it is one reason we joined the Greenville Track Club Corporate Shield program, which promotes “teamwork, running and walking, and competition among area companies.”
Several Think Uppers, including myself, participated in The Greenville News Run Downtown on a very cold Saturday morning in January. While I would have loved to be able to keep up with the fastest runners on the Think Up team, I happily found my own pace and soon reached that “zen zone” where my mind clears, my stress is nonexistent, and I find myself thinking on a whole different level. These moments of clarity are what I take back to the office with me, and they’re what I draw upon when I need a little focus, a moment of calm in the whirlwind of day-to-day activity.
In jobs that require creative thinking, writing, and development, the ability to break through the noise and focus on clear processes and objectives is essential. For me, as for most writers, there are days when everything just seems to click: words flow easily and fluidly, great ideas come so fast you couldn’t stop them even if you tried, you’re accomplishing more in a couple hours than you thought you’d be able to do all day. Those days come from giving my brain the chance to regularly unfetter itself from the clutter that can so often hinder creativity – all thanks to that little mental breather known as exercise!