IF YOU’RE thinking about skipping your next lunchtime or pre-work run because you’re too busy, new research indicates that, for certain types of tasks, taking a break and getting your workout in could improve your performance on the job immediately post-workout.
Researchers found that after performing a single bout of moderate exercise, study subjects performed significantly better on a task that measured working memory, which is essentially the ability to take in information, process it and use it. Working memory is often used synonymously with short-term memory, and it’s essential to performing a wide variety of tasks.
On the other hand, researchers found that moderate exercise had no effect on subjects’ ability to perform a task measuring inhibitory control, which is the ability to maintain attention and block out extraneous information.
Researchers tested 26 subjects’ working memory and inhibitory control before and after passive and active exercise. The passive exercise was 30 minutes of motor-driven cycling, which involved little physical exertion. The active exercise was 30 minutes of stationary biking at a moderate intensity.
There was no significant change in performance following the passive exercise. Notably, there was also no significant change in performance on a simple test of working memory after the moderate exercise. The significant improvement was only present when measuring performance on the more difficult test of working memory.
It is also notable that this study measured the effects of a single bout of exercise, not the long-term effects of exercise. Therefore, if you’ve fallen off the wagon, this is evidence that getting back into it can provide immediate benefits.
The research will be published in a future edition of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.