Researchers at the University of Bristol sought to answer this question by gathering input from over two hundred employees of three large Bristol workplaces by using questionnaires (abstract; news release). These workers in general held desk-based jobs and considered themselves good at what they did, so it’s debatable whether what they have to say about how exercising affects their performance means anything.
Volunteers were asked to fill out short questionnaires about their mood on two working days of their choice: one set for a day they decided to exercise and a second set for another day. At the end of each day, they answered questions about how productive the day had been. Four focus groups were also set up to enable volunteers to talk about their experiences of exercising at work.
Jo Coulson, Research Associate in the University’s Department of Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, said: “Our statistical results were very important. On exercise days, people’s mood significantly improved after exercising. Mood stayed about the same on days they didn’t, with the exception of people’s sense of calm which deteriorated.”
“Critically, workers performed significantly better on exercise days and across all three areas we measured, known as mental-interpersonal, output and time demands.”
The researchers found from the focus groups that people who built exercise into their workday experienced positive spin-offs. Exercise helped re-energise and improve concentration, made people feel calmer and particularly assisted with problem solving. Networking opportunities also seemed to thrive.
Nothing new here, of course. People who are regularly active experience improved moods and are thus more productive in whatever they do, be it working, screwing, or vandalizing (or vandalising) the neighborhood. They key is encouraging those employees who are not active to give it a whirl, something plenty of companies already do, with incentives such as reduced-fee gym memberships or on-site exercise equipment.