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Productive exercise

Regular exercise may help keep you on top of your game at work, Department of Psychology research suggests.

This research has shown that, at least for laboratory rats, a once-daily exercise session is sufficient to increase task productivity throughout the day.

Study head Dr Kristin Hillman says that, when challenged with laboratory tasks that test problem-solving, persistence and strategy-execution skills, rats that ran 20 minutes a day for five days a week outperformed their non-exercised counterparts across the board.

The exercised rats completed more tasks and did so more quickly and efficiently, which enabled them to earn more food rewards throughout the study.

Hillman says the study is exciting in that it highlights a productivity benefit of staying physically active.

“We all know exercise is good for our physical and mental health, but these data suggest that regular exercise may also help make us more productive when it comes to getting tasks accomplished each day."

“Links between exercise and occupational/educational achievement are starting to be noted in humans, but these links are largely correlations and can be riddled with confounding psycho-social factors such as family environment, socio-economic status and personality traits.

“By using an animal model we obviously eliminate such factors and are able to demonstrate a causal relationship between regular exercise and generalised industriousness.”

Hillman, a lecturer in psychology and a neuroscientist by training, says the next step will be to understand the neural mechanisms responsible for this effect.

The study and its results have been published in the US journal PLOS ONE.

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