Exercise at the Office: How to maintain working performance of employees

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INTRODUCTION: Psychiatric diseases have reached one of the top positions for absenteeism in Europe in 2012 and are still increasing. The diagnosis Burnout with its exhaustion syndroms turns to be the most present and cost-intensive disease for national economies and health inscurances. This entails tremendous economic damage in the loss of production in companys. Breaks to interrupt the working time are known to support health care and working safety. For the individual employee they also offer job satisfaction and might reduce the rate of disease. Recent studies have shown that exercise is accompanied by a decrease in (pre-) frontal cortex activity, which might be related to an increase in cognitive performance. This study examined the influence of different types of breaks on the cognitive performance and related cortical activity of office-based employees.
METHODS: Female and male office workers were randomly assessed into four different interventions (N= 4*10) and one control group (N=10). Interventions were applied after a predetermined work rate of 2 hours and consisted of exercise (1) boxing on a punching bag for 3 min (2) lying in a massage chair for 20 min, (3) riding on a bicycle for 20 min (4) having a standard break for 20 min. The control group kept on working for 20 min without any break. Cognitive performance was assessed using two mental tests followed by a profile of mood state to assess individuals perceived physical, motivational and psychological state. In addition, before and after the interventions an EEG was recorded, using a three lead dry system, to explore related neurophysiological changes.
RESULTS: A significant increase could be obtained in cognitive performance from pre to post intervention after boxing compared to standard break and massage chair (p < .05).Perceived psychological state was significantly improved after the standard break compared to all other interventions (p < .05). Alpha2-activity was significantly increased after boxing (p < .01) and biking (p < .05) compared to standard break and no break.
DISCUSSION: The positive effect of a three minute boxing intervention on cognitive performance is mirrored by an increase in perceived psychological state as well as a decrease in prefrontal cortex activity, expressed by an increase in alpha-2 activity. Although perceived psychological state was increased after the standard break (which might be due to social interactions), this is neither reflected in cortical activity nor cognitive performance. With respect to the fact that also bike activity resulted an increase in prefrontal alpha-2 activity a positive effect of exercise on neuro-cognitive performance can be stated. Further research is necessary to distinguish between effects of time and exercise preferences.Health and economic benefits may result from brief physical activity breaks and help to maintain work-place performance, job satisfaction and finally reduce the loss of production.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Database of Sport Science EDSS
Number of pages1
Publication date2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Eventannual Conference of the European College of Sport Science - Unifying Sport Science - Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 26.06.201329.06.2013
Conference number: 18

ID: 270351


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