SALT LAKE CITY — If you take a look at the photo of me that runs with this column, you can see that I'm not what you would call svelte.
I used to be quite skinny, back in high school and even during my first few years of college. But something happened in my mid-20's. I wasn't eating any more than I had before, but for some reason, I started gaining weight.
(Truthfully, I know it's because I wasn't eating any less, either, but I was exercising less and getting older. At the time, however, my expanding waistline was quite a shock.)
Now, as a chunky fellow in his early 40's, I've decided that it's time to try once again to get in shape. Or at least, to attempt to change my shape from very round to slightly less round.
This was a big decision for me, because I knew it would, in part, mean getting up extra early to exercise. I'm not a fan of the early-morning hours, but I figured it was something I had to do if I wanted to be around to see my children graduate from college. So I started setting my alarm for 5:30 a.m. or 5:45 a.m. and dragging myself out of bed each day.
It's been hard some mornings, but I've followed through with spending a half hour each weekday on the exercise bike in our basement — the one that has most recently served primarily as a place to hang things or as a jungle gym for the kids.
I don't know that I've lost much weight yet — at least, not enough for it to be very noticeable — but some of my old pants suddenly fit, or fit better. At any rate, I feel better about myself for giving physical activity a place in my life again.
And, as an unexpected side benefit, I've noticed that I seem to be a bit more productive at work since I started this new routine.
That's why a recent press release from onlinedegrees.com, an education website, caught my eye.
The release promoted a new "Pep Up Your Productivity" infographic the company produced to highlight activities that increase workplace productivity and morale.
Among the findings included in that graphic are the results of a 2008 study by the University of Bristol. It found that more than 70 percent of workers reported better time management and interpersonal communication skills on days that they exercised during work hours. The survey also indicated that 41 percent of the exercising workers felt more motivated.
According to the graphic, research also shows that workers benefit when their bosses exercise, because their bosses are less stressed. I'll have to ask the people on my team whether they believe that to be the case. I'm guessing they would say that I'm still just as stressed as ever, but it's an overall lower stress level than I've felt at other jobs in the past.
The graphic includes some other interesting information about workers and health.
"Along with gym memberships and other employer perks, a simple nap can boost workers' productivity," the release said. "Thirty-four percent of people who napped during work hours reported improved performance, according to a NASA study."
I've written about work naps before, admitting that any sleeping I've done at the office in the past has been of the unintentional variety. But I still think the afternoon "power nap" is something more companies should explore.
“Of course, employees are responsible for their own health and well-being,” Kevin Phang, spokesman for onlinedegrees.com, said in the release. “But the more employers do to help reduce stress levels and increase job satisfaction, the more productive the employees will be in the longer term.”
Although I've been exercising at home before going to work, my employer is serious about offering such opportunities at the office. It has two large wellness centers available for use by employees in the various buildings on its campus, and several different classes and exercise programs help people get and stay in shape.
Due to my daily schedule, which tends to include many meetings, those classes wouldn't often work for me. But I still appreciate the company's desire to promote wellness — and, as a result, better productivity — among its employees.
As I'm coming to discover more clearly than I have in years, making time for exercise is an important part of building better work/life balance. True balance goes beyond just spending more time with family and includes spending the time we take for ourselves as wisely as possible.
Now that I've made some small initial steps in this direction, I'm hoping I'll be able to keep making progress so, someday, my column photo will depict a svelter version of me.
I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic, too. Have you found that exercise has an impact on your productivity or morale at work? Does your workplace offer a wellness center or other exercise opportunities? How important should such offerings be as part of an employer's work/life balance initiatives? Send me your ideas, and I'll try to share some of them in a future column.
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