“The job of a manager” Harvard Business Review has said, “is, above all, to make decisions.” Many managers, however, underestimate the impact of self-care practices, such as exercise, on good decision-making. Researchers have shown, for example, that personal care has a direct impact on productivity, which may mean that making changes to your self-care practices may help you increase your productivity.
In this article, we examine how changing your exercise routine or finding ways to add physical activity into your day can help you manage stress and improve your ability to think, concentrate, and make better decisions. We’ll also offer you practical strategies you can use to start incorporating more movement into your day.
The Science Behind Exercise and Making Decisions
If you’ve been struggling to make a decision at work and you find yourself coming up against a deadline, the last thing you probably want to do is leave your desk. However, taking a walk or completing a three-minute exercise routine not only helps you manage stress, it increases blood flow and oxygen to your brain. This increase in oxygen improves your ability to focus and helps you think more clearly about the decision at hand.
Studies also demonstrate that exercise can change the structure of your brain and can impact neurogenesis (the generation of new brain cells) and neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to adapt and form new connections between existing brain cells), which are both critical in making good decisions.
How Exercise Improves Decision-Making Abilities
Regular exercise can benefit your health and professional performance in several ways, including:
- Increasing cognitive function, focus, and attention: Adding more exercise to your routine is linked to an increased attention span, which can help you make better decisions.
- Reducing stress, anxiety, and fatigue: Managing stress effectively with exercise can improve your mental well-being, which in turn can improve your decision-making abilities.
- Increasing energy levels, motivation, and productivity: Exercise can improve your stamina and motivate you to get tasks done, leading to increased productivity.
- Boosting mood and overall well-being: Individuals with a regular exercise routine report more creativity and job satisfaction, which can lead to better decision-making abilities and improved performance at work.
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Tips for Incorporating Exercise into Your Routine
Many people struggle to make time to exercise, but by making small changes to your routine, you can easily add more activity into your day to improve your productivity and decision-making skills.
Here are some practical tips to get started:
Invest in a Standing Desk or Treadmill
Consider investing in a standing desk or treadmill if you spend a lot of time at a desk. These desks can get you on your feet or help you achieve your step count while leading improving your thinking and decision-making abilities.
Take the Long Way
Opt for the longer route to your destination. Park farther away from your building if you drive to work or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walking more can help you get the physical activity you need to boost your mental clarity and decision-making skills.
Move on Your Lunch and Break Times
Use your breaks to get more activity in your day. Take a walk during your lunch break to get some fresh air and boost your energy levels. Incorporating exercise into your breaks can also help you break up your day and reduce stress.
Schedule Walking Meetings
Propose walking meetings with your colleagues instead of traditional sit-down meetings. If you’re attending a virtual meeting, consider taking the meeting while standing or walking to add some activity to your day.
Give Yourself a Challenge
Set achievable fitness goals for yourself and your coworkers, such as working up to 100 push-ups or walking 10,000 steps each day. These goals can be a great way to stay motivated and increase physical activity as a group.
Exercise First Thing in the Morning
While many people prefer to exercise after work, studies have shown that exercising in the morning can have a positive impact on your decision-making abilities throughout the day.
By making exercise a part of your morning routine, you can ensure that it becomes a habit and a priority in your daily life. Even if you only have a few minutes to spare, doing some light exercise or stretches can set a positive tone for the rest of your day. Remember, the most important decision you can make is to prioritize your health and well-being, and incorporating exercise into your morning routine can help you do just that.
The Bottom Line
As a leader, your decisions impact everyone around you, which is why it’s critical that you prioritize your mental health, energy, and productivity. By incorporating movement into your daily routine, you can dramatically improve both your professional performance and your ability to make good decisions.
If you’re ready to embark on a journey towards making better choices, start by taking our free health assessment.