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To Be Sharper at Work, Do This One Thing

Integrate exercise with your work routine, using these five steps


by Kara Baskin

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Psychologist Ron Friedman, Ph.D., author of The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace, frequently blogs for the Harvard Business Review. In a recent post, he explored the benefits of integrating regular exercise with your work routine: enhanced mental firepower, sharper concentration, even a kinder demeanor. Now he talks to Life Reimagined about how to step away from the desk and actually get moving.

Reframe. Stop thinking about exercise as a personal indulgence. “We feel almost selfish taking time away from our jobs or our family. We think about our existence through the lens of only work or life. But exercise benefits both of these things: You’ll be more pleasant, better at your job, faster, and even have a better memory,” Friedman says.

Connect With Your Inner Child. If you’d rather swim with snakes than hit the treadmill, think back to activities that you loved to do as a kid. Was it tennis? Skiing? Surfing? “If you enjoyed it then, you will now,” says Friedman. “Don’t try to talk yourself into an activity you dislike.”

Time Your Workouts. Exercise when your energy levels are up. “For most people, this is the morning. We tend to experience a real dip at around 2 p.m. and again at 5. Seven hours after you wake up is when you want to nap,” says Friedman. So seize your active moments; if you plan a workout for midday or after work, you might give in to fatigue and fall back into your old, sedentary ways.

Start Slow. Set attainable goals. If you’re a committed couch potato, think about getting active once or twice a week. “If you promise yourself that you’ll suddenly work out every morning, you’ll end up only disappointing yourself and getting frustrated,” Friedman warns.

Make a List. If you’re feeling truly guilty about abandoning your desk for the gym, play a little trick on yourself. Friedman suggests making a list of difficult problems that require solving and skimming it before exercising. “It’s one way of alleviating that implicit guilt. I do it for myself, and inevitably, over the course of my workout, a solution will reveal itself,” he says. Problem-solving while getting fit? A good workout indeed.

Photo Credit: Tara Moore/Getty

See also: The Key To Productivity (It’s Not What You Think)