Feeling conflicted by the push-pull of work and family life? New research
suggests that regular
exercise can help balance out those feelings.
Researchers examined the responses of 476 working adults who were surveyed
about their exercise behaviour and their confidence in handling work-family
conflicts. Those who exercised regularly seemed to experience an increased
feeling of competence that carried over into work and home roles, the study
life exhausting you? Find your mojo!
"If, for example, you go for a two-mile jog or walk 10 flights of steps
at work and feel good about yourself for doing that, it will translate and
carry over into other areas of life," said study author Russell Clayton,
an assistant professor of management at Saint Leo University in Florida.
Feeling good about yourself
"We found that [participants] who exercised felt good about themselves,
that they felt that they could accomplish tough tasks, and that carried over
into work and family life," Clayton added.
The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Human
Volumes of research have shown that exercise lowers mental and physical
stress levels, but few studies have focused on whether this stress reduction
helps empower individuals to better manage their work-life balance.
Clayton said the study originated as a "pet project" after he
realised his own adherence to exercise gave him perspective on integrating work
and life. Also involved in the study were researchers from Saint Louis
University, University of Houston-Victoria and Illinois State University.
Clayton acknowledged that the research method the study authors used –
having respondents answer questions and then tallying the answers through a
mathematical technique did not offer hard numbers for the results.
Just over half (55%) of the study participants were women. In addition, the
study noted, participants worked an average of 40 hours weekly and their average
age was 41. About 29% had at least one child under age 18 living at home.
While the study found a link between physical activity and reports of
greater empowerment at home and at work, it did not prove a cause-and-effect
"But the associations between exercise and work-life balance are there,
and they're very strong," Clayton said.
For those who don't exercise regularly, the idea of adding that regimen to a
busy schedule to improve stress levels may seem counterintuitive, Clayton
But he advocates the idea of "stolen moments" for exercise that
add up, such as climbing the stairs for five minutes or doing jumping jacks in
"We hope our research can be a grain of sand in the beach of evidence
we have to push corporations . . . to encourage employees to exercise," he
Dr Natalie Digate Muth, spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise,
said the study extends the evidence that physical activity offers benefits
beyond the obvious.
"People should think of it as a kind of investment. If you put some
time into physical activity," said Muth, "you may be active for 30
minutes a day, but the productivity and mental focus you're going to get out of
it is going to far exceed what you put into it, from a work and family
exercise helps brain cope with stress
protects against future emotional stress
to exercise more and reap the benefits