Kelly Burke
September 15, 2011

The Sydney Morning Herald

EMPLOYEES who walk 10,000 steps a day and work out in the gym three times a week can give their employer an extra $2500 worth of productivity a year, an Australian clinical trial has found. In addition, they can add five years to their lifespan in the process.

The Body-Brain Performance Institute, in conjunction with Swinburne University’s Brain Sciences Institute, took 40 employees of the Melbourne branch of the global software company SAP in April this year, gave them pedometers and then split them into two groups.

The control group was given the task of achieving 10,000 steps a day, compared to the 2000 to 3000 steps of an average office worker.

The second group also had to clock up 10,000 steps, but in addition undergo three resistance training sessions each week designed by the researchers.

Over the following eight weeks, the employees’ measurable components of brain function, including the ability to plan, remember, simulate future scenarios and make decisions, were measured using a neuropsychological test battery developed by the Swinburne institute.

Employees’ alertness and energy levels were also measured, along with their levels of anger and stress.

The research showed a clear link between vigorous physical activity, increased brain function and reduced stress levels at work.

While the control group showed a 2 per cent improvement in their level of fitness and brain function by achieving 10,000 steps a day, the trial found that when more vigorous exercise was added three times a week, an employee’s bioage – a figure based on the level of a person’s health and fitness, as opposed to their chronological age – increased by five years.

Brain function also increased significantly, to the level of 4 per cent.

Using Harvard University’s Productivity Questionnaire to translate the physical and cognitive improvement into a dollar value, the trial concluded that each member of the exercise group had contributed an additional $2500 worth of productivity annually to the company.

Professor Paul Taylor, who led the research, said the findings confirmed previous studies which showed vigorous exercise significantly increases happiness, productivity and cognition, and employers should be harnessing the advantages of exercise more in the workplace.

“I see that 10,000 steps a day and three trips to the gym per week will increase productivity at work only because the employee’s spouse will kick him/her out of home as they spend most of their time away; so the employee will spend the night at work and this eventually increases his/her productivity ; )”

Mohanned Qassar