How Exercise Helps with Work/Life Balance

“If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person” goes the old adage. Even better, give it to a busy person who regularly exercises, because she’s likely to be better than a sedentary person at balancing a cramped schedule, a new study suggests.

Russell Clayton, assistant professor of management at Saint Leo University in Florida, US, surveyed 476 working adults about how they manage the demands of their personal and professional lives. Not surprisingly, his study found that exercise lowered stress levels. But Clayton also found that exercise increased self-efficacy, the feeling that one is capable of taking things on and getting them done. Among the survey participants, the increased feeling of self-efficacy experienced with regular exercise carried over to work and home roles, and translated into less conflict over balancing those roles.

Clayton, who is a runner, suggests that people should find the kind of exercise that works best for them, whether it be exercising first thing in the morning, during a midday break, or as a post-work release. He also advocates “stolen moments” of exercise, such as walking up the stairs or doing a few jumping jacks, that accumulate during the day.

Clayton says that managers and human resource professionals should take note of the findings because they suggest that businesses should try to encourage employee exercise by allowing more flexible hours, encouraging new habits like walking meetings, and supporting short “booster breaks” – 10 to 15 minutes of stretching, breathing, and light exercise – during the day.

The study will appear in an upcoming issue of Human Resource Management.

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