A 2005 study in the Creativity Research Journal revealed a link between moderate aerobic exercise and increased mental function, primarily an increase in cognitive creativity. Possibly the most fascinating element was not only that exercise increased creativity, but that the effects were both immediate and sustained over time. The report found that two hours after a moderate aerobic exercise, creativity was effectively experiencing the same benefits as immediately following the exercise.
Executives in certain industries that rely on creativity, such as design and technology, may be more ready to admit the importance of fostering creativity in their employees, but every successful business, no matter what field, depends on creativity from its employees. Creativity, promoted in many business periodicals, including this 2008 article in the Harvard Business Review, can result in excellent productivity, problem solving, customer service, and sustained success for companies in competitive or global arenas. The Harvard Business Review reminds us that not all powerful ideas come from the top, especially in recent years.
Combining these concepts, we can easily see how physical activity can improve creativity, thus improving the productivity, problem solving, and business decisions of employees at every level in your company. The key then is to encourage physical activity on a daily basis in your workplace.
Start Small: Many high performance coaches, such as Brendon Burchard of the High Performance Academy, recommend taking one to two breaks every hour. These breaks can be a mere 5 minutes, and should involve stretching, walking, and drinking water. These frequent, but small breaks allow just enough physical activity and recharge to reset the energy levels without losing too much of the focus on the current project. In fact, after such breaks, many find that their focus is renewed and they can come up with better, more creative solutions to the problems they are working on.
Keep Going: Most experts recommend roughly 20 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise 5 – 6 times per week. A walk around the block, a short visit to the company’s onsite fitness center, or a jog early in the morning increases the heart rate, improves circulation to the brain, enhances the lungs’ breathing capacity, and sends plenty of oxygen-rich blood to the brain, improving focus, attention, and, of course, creativity. Encourage your employees to get at least 15-20 minutes of physical activity a day, and consider allowing them to use your onsite fitness center for at least 30 minutes a day while on the clock. The benefits you will receive from their increased creativity and productivity will more than outweigh the cost of paying them to work out.
Increase Awareness: Many employees, especially those who sit at desks all day, can get swamped with work and rarely even think about the cost of the sedentary lives they are leading. Raise awareness of the benefits of exercising, provide opportunity and incentive for your employees to get moving, and lead by example, making sure you get plenty of movement in the day yourself. Post fliers in the break room and encourage your employees to move, even think about adding walking meetings. Make it fun and rewarding, and incorporate movement and physical activity into your corporate culture.
Go Big: Participation in events such as Walk for the Cure, Relay for Life, and other activity-focused programs can add another level of interest for your employees in getting up and getting moving. Events that require training, even at lower levels, can also build excitement for exercise. A wellness program that rewards setting and meeting activity-related goals creates more incentive to get going, and group activities that track steps, walking, bike riding, or other activities can provide a sense of accountability and a social dynamic.
In what ways does your company encourage and promote physical activity for your employees? Please share below.