How to Make Time to Work Out

Working out well doesn’t have to take long hours.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #395

Listener Randy writes in:

"I work for myself and need to lose weight. I only see results when I spend 5–6 hours a day on exercise. Losing the weight will help me live longer, and thus be worth big bucks. Does that mean that my exercise time is worth hundreds of dollars per hour?"

Randy, the last part of your question is answered in my previous episode on how to value your time. You should also care how well you use your time. You mentioned working out 5–6 hours a day. I thought there’s gotta be a way to work out less and do more. I’ve asked Get-Fit Guy Ben Greenfield to weigh in (get it? “weigh in”) on the question of whether it’s worth the time to work out. 

Ben is an author, personal trainer, fitness guru, has 0% body fat, and can do 100 burpees before breakfast. If you don’t know what a burpee is, let’s just say that doing them before breakfast is a really good idea, because if you do them on a full stomach … well, you’ll find out why it’s called a burpee. I asked Ben to weigh in on the topic of spending time on exercise. Here's what he said:

Is it really worth it to take precious time out of the day to exercise? While you’re out on a lunchtime run, couldn’t you instead be using that time to finish an important project, or even work ahead a bit to earn some vacation days?

Well, to determine if a daily exercise bout is truly a waste of time, let’s delve into the nitty-gritty research on whether or not exercise makes you productive, shall we?

Walk at Work

First, a study by the American College of Sports Medicine found that workers who exercised at least 30 minutes at some point during the work day reported an average performance and productivity boost of about 15%. Of those employees, 60% reported that when they exercised, they specifically noticed that their time management skills, mental performance and ability to meet deadlines improved. In addition, the employees who participated in this study reported they were far less likely to experience post-lunch dips in energy if they exercised earlier in the day.

When you have found a chance to get some fresh air or sunshine prior to a stressful meeting, you’re far less likely to sit there gritting your teeth.

In another study, researchers from the University of Birmingham monitored 56 sedentary office workers to see if introducing a daily walk would improve mood or the ability to handle stress. The employees observed in this study were instructed to simply walk for 30 minutes during their usual lunch time, and to do this at least three times a week. The Birmingham study discovered that something as short and simple as a 30 minute lunchtime walk boosts your mood and increases your ability to manage stressful situations in the office. And yes, you may already know from personal experience that when you have found a chance to get some fresh air or sunshine prior to a stressful meeting, you’re far less likely to sit there gritting your teeth and wishing you were someplace else.

Exercise at Work Boosts Your Day

Another study at Leeds Metropolitan University suggests employees who get exercise during regular work hours experience and performance and productivity boost. In this study, more than 200 employees reported on their daily personal performance levels. The researchers then examined fluctuations within individual employees, comparing their work output and productivity on days when they exercised to days when they didn’t. So what did the nerds at Leeds find?

This study discovered that when you engage in something like a visit to the gym at your work, or a lunchtime or pre-work bout of exercise, your experience and mood at work completely changes. For example, the employees who were studied reported they not only managed their time more efficiently and were more productive, but also reported going home feeling far more satisfied at the end of the day.

And, of course, it’s important to understand that these studies are comparing the folks who exercised with the folks who didn’t exercise. When it comes to productivity (and mood!), daily exercise at or before work wins hands down.

So slowly, slowly step away from the keyboard, and crank out a few circuits of five pushups, ten squats, and fifteen crunches. There? Don’t you feel better now?


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.