Feel stressed out by your work and family life? New research from scientists in Florida say there may be a new way to cope with it–by doing more aerobic exercise.
The research, slated to be published in the journal Human Resource Management later this year, found that those who exercised regularly felt more empowered when it came to family and work, improving their self esteem.
“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,” says Russell Clayton, a Saint Leo University assistant professor of management and author of the study. “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.”
Recruiting a total of 476 working adults, Clayton and his team of researchers looked at how their exercise habits affected their confidence levels when it came to handling conflicts in the workplace and at home–two factors that people often report as major stress factors. On average, the participants didn’t work an overly hectic schedule–they averaged out at 40 hours of work per week. Around 30 percent had a child living at home during the beginning of the study.
To see how both factors interacted, Clayton had the participants answer questions regarding their lifestyle and exercise habits, and then tallied up the data using a mathematical formula.
As a result, Clayton found that those who adhered to a regular schedule of physical activity had more confidence when it came to dealing with other stressful aspects of their life, such as family and work.
“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,” says Clayton. “But the associations between exercise and work-life balance are there, and they’re very strong.”
In addition, American Council on Exercise spokesperson Dr. Natalie Digate Muth says this study shows that exercise has benefits that extend far beyond its physical effects on the body.
“People should think of it as a kind of investment. If you put some time into physical activity,” says 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 perspective.”
And indeed, although the study doesn’t slow an absolute cause-and-effect result, the evidence is clear–if you want to feel more confident, first you’ll need to hit the gym.
What You Should Do
If work or family obligations have you in a serious slump, don’t sleep it off–exercise! Just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 to 6 days a week can help take the edge of stress and improve your confidence.
Readers: How often do you exercise?