Energy For Life

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Make Lunch Count (and I’m not talking about calories!)

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Stylist magazine is currently running a campaign to encourage Londoners to ‘Reclaim Your Lunch Break’, citing many reasons why stepping away from work for an hour in the middle of the day far outweighs reasons not to. This doesn’t only refer to taking an hour out for eating, but also other activities such as exercising, shopping, reading, socialising with friends etc. Naturally, my ears perked up as soon as I heard about this campaign because it completely resonates with the very reason I set up this blog: Achieving the miraculous and elusive work-life balance!

Below, is a recent article, which I have condensed, from The New York Times health blog that I wanted to share as a little reminder of how even something as simple as a lunchtime stroll around the neighbourhood can reap many rewards:

The Benefits Of A Lunch Hour Walk

To combat afternoon slumps in enthusiasm and focus, take a walk during the lunch hour. A new study finds that even gentle lunchtime strolls can perceptibly — and immediately — buoy people’s moods and ability to handle stress at work.

It is not news, of course, that walking is healthy and that people who walk or otherwise exercise regularly tend to be more calm, alert and happy than people who are inactive. But many past studies of the effects of walking and other exercise on mood have focused on somewhat long-term, gradual outcomes, looking at how weeks or months of exercise change people emotionally.

Fewer studies have examined more-abrupt, day-to-day and even hour-by-hour changes in people’s moods, depending on whether they exercise, and even fewer have focused on these effects while people are at work, even though most of us spend a majority of our waking hours in an office.

The new study, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Birmingham and was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports in January 2015, assessed a group of people who were instructed to walk for a minimum of thirty minutes, three times per week for up to ten weeks. The study was led by Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani, who is now a professor of exercise science at Curtin University in Perth, Australia.

In order to assess people’s moods, the scientists helped their volunteers to set up a specialized app on their phones that included a list of questions about their emotions. The questions were designed to measure the volunteers’ feelings, at that moment, about stress, tension, enthusiasm, workload, motivation, physical fatigue and other issues related to how they were feeling about life and work at that immediate time.

A common problem with studies of the effect of exercise on mood, Dr. Thogersen-Ntoumani said, is that they rely on recall. People are asked to remember hours or days after the fact how exercise made them feel. Given how fleeting and mysterious our emotions can be, recalled responses are notoriously unreliable. Instead, she and her colleagues wanted in-the-moment assessments from people of how they felt before and after exercise. The phone app questions provided that experience, she said, in a relatively convenient form.

Once completed, the study found that on the afternoons after a lunchtime stroll, walkers said they felt considerably more enthusiastic, less tense, and generally more relaxed and able to cope than on afternoons when they hadn’t walked and even compared with their own moods from a morning before a walk.

Although the researchers did not directly measure workplace productivity in their study, “there is now quite strong research evidence that feeling more positive and enthusiastic at work is very important to productivity,” Dr. Thogersen-Ntoumani said. “So we would expect that people who walked at lunchtime would be more productive.”

As a pleasant, additional outcome, all of the volunteers showed gains in their aerobic fitness and other measures of health at the completion of their ten weeks of walking. However, tellingly, many said that they anticipated being unable to continue walking after the experiment ended. The primary impediment to their walking had been “that they were expected by management to work through lunch,” suggesting that management might wish to acquaint themselves with the latest science.

Read the full article here.

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