You have a deadline. You have a meeting. You have friends and family and people relying on you. You couldn’t possibly take a break from your work or from your desk. Who has the time?
You have the time. Because the time you will take to break away from your desk and move your body will increase your productivity, creativity and sense of well-being; saving you more time that sticking to your desk ever could. I know, just thinking about taking a break can be stressful. But we all know how this story goes, if you stay seated. You make more errors. You’re less creative and less innovative. You reach for a sugary snack to wake up but it just makes you edgy.
Research keeps telling the same story: On days that employees work out during the workday, they are more effective, report better time management and show greater productivity. Maybe that’s because moving more increases your brain’s acetylcholine activity, a neurotransmitter linked to attention and learning.
How can you use the research to your advantage? Take a movement break. Yes, it may feel overwhelming to step away from your desk for even five-minutes, but that is simply culture arguing with science. Our non-stop work attitude has continually taught us that, she who works more wins, but the truth is, she who works better and smarter wins.
Putting it into practice: start small. Schedule a ten-minute movement break every two hours. The ten minutes away will prove useful when your executive functioning increases and your errors decrease. As an added bonus, getting up every two hours helps prevent spikes in blood sugar that can result from prolonged sitting.
Initially, it may feel like you are stepping outside of your work culture, but really, you are taking the lead in what is a growing movement towards a healthier workplace. Companies with wellness programs report ROI’s as high as 6:1. If your company doesn’t have one yet, take the lead and be the example. Trust me, your boss will thank you when your work is done quicker and with less mistakes.
Struggling with creativity? The research is still blooming but several studies show that simply taking a walk may help people come up with new ideas.
You probably know that you just can’t force creativity. Likely, we have all experienced hours of frustration, sitting at our desk, struggling to come up with new ideas. I mean, c’mon I’m a writer; the struggle is real. Eventually, I will give up my inner fight and go for a run along the Hudson. Many, many articles have been written on my phone, as I walked along the river, still dripping with sweat. Your brain needs movement. Period.
Not about to go for a sweaty run on your lunch break? Schedule a walking meeting, or play a game of catch with colleagues in your next brain storming session. The mind and body are not separate and you simply cannot use one without the other. On days when I am stuck in a long lecture, I keep silly putty with me. It may not be a run, but it helps me get outside of myself and process ideas.
Long phone call? Walk while you talk.
Report due? Take a break to do squats and push-ups when you are hitting a wall.
Plugging in numbers? Stand at your desk every now and then and take a walking break every two hours.
Meeting? Walk and talk
Creating new copy? Stand at a white board. Go for a jog. Play catch and chat with your colleague. Get moving.
We are made to move and our brains work best when we allow ourselves to function at our fullest. So my secret to productivity? Move more. Express more. Create more.