Many of us feel we never have time to be productive at the office and be physically healthy. Fortunately, fitness and productivity go hand in hand, since a stronger body strengthens the mind.
Here are two simple hacks that anyone can add to their day. Mobile tech is an essential ingredient in both hacks, as they involve gadgets that allow me to be productive while moving around.
1. Walk outdoors to send emails.
Instead of blasting out emails hunched over a laptop, I find it’s much better to go into the sunshine. At around 10 a.m., I leave my desk, open up my favorite smartphone email applications (Mailbox and Google Inbox), and send out my emails for the day.
There are four benefits to sending emails from a smartphone while walking outdoors.
First, walking during the day is known to increase creativity. “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking,” said the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Indeed, in one experimental study, people who walked around generated 60 percent more ideas for how to use everyday objects than those who stayed sitting. The very act of getting the blood flowing can increase creativity throughout the day.
Second, sunlight benefits the body. Moderate amounts of sun exposure can, among other things, increase the vital nutrient Vitamin D, which is catalyzed in the body in reaction to ultraviolet light.
Third, the blue spectrum of sunlight triggers a feeling of alertness. A lack of daytime blue light can cause all sorts of unpleasant feelings. As a result, there are various “light therapy” gadgets, such as the Philips goLITE, to help people in cloudy climates overcome dour feelings.
Gilles Vandewalle, a researcher on the cognitive benefits of light, told me, “Light therapy is great but can be replaced/complemented by outside exposures if it’s relatively bright, i.e. not gray and dull.” In other words, just a bit of sun exposure can improve mood and cognition.
Fourth, and certainly not least, I find that I’m far better with email on my smartphone. The tiny keyboard forces me to be thrifty with my words. I blaze through messages with one or two sentences.
So, this is why getting a bit of mid-day exercise and sending emails from my phone is one of my favorite hacks to increase my productivity and health at the same time.
2. Do 30 seconds of exercise to boost cognitive performance.
Whenever I’m feeling foggy or tired, I go into a corner and bang out 30 seconds of super-high intensity exercise. I run in place, do some pushups, hold myself in a handstand against a wall, or do squats. Research finds that very short bursts of high-intensity exercise (not enough to sweat) dramatically increase performance on cognitive tests, such as reaction time. I find that it feels better than coffee.
And it’s not just brain health: Just 3 minutes of “all-out” exercise per week can improve heart health. The key, I find, is getting my heart rate up to about 80 percent of maximum. For me, that’s about 160 bpm. Wearables that track heart rate help ensure I’ve hit my target heart rate. I prefer the Microsoft Band, the Mio Alpha, or the old marathon runner standby, a Polar chest strap, to track my heart rate.
It honestly does not take a lot of exercise to become more healthy. And just a little bit of mid-day fitness can improve productivity as well. It’s a win-win.