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Man walking up stairs by: Pierson Scarborough, Digital Marketing Team

Work tends to be so all-consuming at times that relaxation and exercise become an afterthought or are viewed as luxuries. Some think working out will make them more tired than they already are. I argue the opposite: regular physical exercise is critically important, particularly to those working long hours.

Here are six ways regular exercise can boost work productivity.

Energy and alertness. It’s common for people to think that exercise will deplete their energy stores and make them more tired—they assume they simply don’t have the energy for both work and exercise. Over time, however, regular exercise can boost your energy levels. Exercise stimulates mitochondria in your cells to produce ATP, the chemical your body uses for energy. Regular fitness can also bolster your body’s ability to transport oxygen and other nutrients throughout your body, most notably the brain. Thus, exercise not only gives you an extra energy boost, it helps you be more alert and focused. More energy and focus throughout the day means improved efficiency at work.

Mental health. Energy levels take some time to rise, but the effects exercise has on your mood are immediate. When you exercise, your brain releases chemicals known as neurotransmitters. For example, serotonin is responsible for controlling emotions and mood; an abundance in your system translates to a good disposition while a deficit can lead to depression. That means exercise is a natural stress reliever that leads to a better attitude, which can translate into improved interpersonal skills.

Creativity. Exercise enhances your body’s ability to pump essential chemicals and nutrients throughout your body, most notably your brain. A healthy, well functioning brain is, obviously, a more creative one. In fact, taking a break from a project you’re creatively stalled on is a great way to encourage fresh ideas, and a workout can be an excellent way to literally lift the “block burden” off your mind.

Balance. Exercising regularly helps your body operate at higher efficiency levels, which can help fight off illness and result in fewer sick days (not always a benefit, we realize). Following an exercise routine can also help your life feel more balanced. A happier mood, more energy, and a clearer head can help you be more organized and develop routines that lead to better discipline.

Strength. Exercise physically strengthens your muscles and increases endurance, but it can also add to your mental strength. Being disciplined enough to go to the gym—especially on days when you don’t feel up to it—can prepare you to conquer other tasks that are difficult or distasteful.

A direct line can be drawn between your body’s efficiency and your workplace productivity. If your body is working at peak efficiency, you will more easily accomplish your work—leaving you more free time. Exercising regularly may actually give you more time and energy than you had without it.