Nope, it’s not yoga.
Exercising at work is becoming more commonplace. While some opt for simple stretches to simply refresh themselves, others prefer a full workout routine to get a good sweat in. And why not? Exercising, in general, has many benefits ranging from getting ripped (of course) to lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Naturally, exercising at work seems like an efficient use of time.
In a study from Emerald Insight, exercise has been shown to even benefit your work performance and boost productivity! But what kind of exercise should you be doing at work? According to a study published in Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise, a short period of exercise that does not require concentration may be the way to go.
HIIT vs Cycling
In this Japanese study, 28 healthy, middle-aged men were recruited. To test the effectiveness of various exercises on their working memory, three tests were conducted. Working memory is basically a system that helps you hold information that you are currently using, such as tasks performed at work.
In the first test, to test their rest-cognition condition, they were tasked to simply sit on a bike, while the second test (meant to study their exercise-cognition condition) required them to cycle. They were then asked to perform cognitive tasks meant to hold their attention. The third group (a study of exercise-only cognition) were also tasked to exercise, but did not need to perform these cognitive tasks.
While the first test was simply a control test, the second test was to simulate more cognitively demanding exercises such as yoga and HIIT. Before, during and after the test, they were asked to do a test to examine the effect of exercise on their working memory performance.
So what were the results? They found that just cycling showed positive effects 30 minutes after the exercise, with improvements to various aspects of their working memory performance, including the accuracy and speed of their responses to the prior tests.
However, what they also found was that the exercise-cognition group also experienced “cognitive fatigue”. What this meant was that having to pay extra attention during aerobic exercise (like performing these cognitive tasks) didn’t bring any additional benefits compared to simple exercise (running, cycling) and actually cancelled out the working memory benefits of exercise.
“The present study suggests that simple exercise is better than cognitively demanding exercise during working hours,” lead author Keita Kamijo, an assistant professor on the faculty of sports sciences, Waseda University, Tokyo, told Reuters Health by email, which was published in a report.
Best Exercise To Do At Work
So while exercise is good, some types of exercise such as HIIT or yoga may be unsuitable if you’re trying to improve your work performance. Sometimes, less may actually be more. While this is a small-scale study, the results are quite telling.
Dr John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston, told Reuters Health by phone, “We’ve known for some time that exercise improves working memory…The big take away here is that too much exercise may exhaust your brain for the next little while.”
“It is possible that a greater amount of load on the brain is required for chronic improvements in cognitive function, as with the overload principle of strength training,” Keita said.
John said, “A good 80 to 90 per cent of people will get more aroused, less tired, have more energy and be more motivated if they make a habit of exercise. The more involved with others and challenges they bring to themselves, the better they’ll build the brain up over time and improve their memory, attention span and their ability to deal with stress.”
A version of this story first appeared in www.menshealth.com.sg.