Gotta Run: How exercise makes us better at life and work!

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 10, 2022

One of my favorite things is collecting excuses that others use to avoid exercise. Can you guess what is the most common excuse I hear? “But I don’t have time!” wins by far going away. The other day, I ran across a book called “The Practice of Groundedness” by Brad Stulberg. Stulberg found some interesting thoughts about why we all need to include exercise in our lives. The following are some highlights.

A 2019 study by the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says that Americans do in fact have time. The study asked a diverse sampling of 32,000 Americans how they spend their time. The results weren’t surprising in that Americans have more than 4.5 hours per day of leisure time and they spend most of that sitting in front of screens. This finding was consistent across income, age, gender and ethnicity.

Yet, many say they work an important and intense job, and they are just too tired to exercise. Stulberg says that instead of avoiding exercise because of their work, we should make exercise a big part of it. You have heard me say and research proves that regular physical activity increases creative thinking and problem solving, improves mood and emotional control, enhances focus and energy and promotes quality sleep. What kind of work wouldn’t benefit from all of these things?

And here’s one near and dear to my own heart! Stanford University did a study that asked participants to do mentally fatiguing tasks. Afterwards, one group took a break and those participants stared at a wall. Another group went on up to a 15-minute walk during their break. Both groups were then tested for creative insight, with the walking group testing 40% higher than those who stared at the wall. This concept works for kids and teens when they engage in physical activity. The Daily Mile program in our elementary schools has proven over and over that the kids are more focused and creative after their 20 minute break to run or walk their mile.

Most regular exercisers believe that their brain function is better because of exercise. Stulberg says that movement promotes long-term brain development by triggering the release of a chemical called brain-derived neutrophic factor (BDNF), sort of a fertilizer for the brain. BNDF fuels a process called neurogenesis which spawns new brain cells and makes connections between them. I read more and more about the link between physical activity and regular movement and how it prevents and delays cognitive decline. Stulberg says, “To date, there is no better prevention for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s than regular physical activity.”

A key point to the book is one I’ve heard before, citing the idea that if movement could be bottled and sold in pill form it would be a trillion-dollar blockbuster drug. The pill would be used for everything from enhancing performance to improving well-being and even preventing and treating disease.

Stulberg said, “Once we begin to view physical activity as an essential part of better performance at work, then we are more likely to make it a regular part of our lives. This shift in mindset provides both the permission and motivation to spend time moving our bodies, making movement less self-serving and more as indispensable.”

Most of us don’t think of exercise as part of our job, but sometimes we do think of it as work. But by adding movement to our lives and making the commitment to do so, we get better at work too. Happier, healthier and more at ease in both places!

Finally, another study was conducted on how to get that exercise. After something as simple as one 30-minute walk, or six five-minute walks spread out through the day, mood and energy levels remained high. Overall satisfaction at work was highest when the movement was spread out during the day.

Look for Spencer’s Run to the River 5K and other upcoming events at