Going to the gym may be good for your physique, but it may be better for your mental and work health. According to new research, workers who participated in some form of physical activity experienced significantly lower instances of depression and burnout at work. The best results came from workers who exercised for four hours a week, as they were half as likely to experience mental health deteriorations, such as depression and burnout.
Researchers Sharon Toker,of Tel Aviv University's Recanati Faculty of Management, and Michal Biron, of the University of Haifa, based their findings on 1,632 Israeli workers in both private and public sector jobs who completed questionnaires and had routine checkups at medical clinics over a nine-year period.
To conduct the research, the workers were broken up into four groups: one that did not work out, one that exercised for 75 to 100 minutes a week, one that exercised for 150 to 240 minutes a week and a last group that worked out for 240-plus minutes a week. Physical activity was described as anything that increased the heart rate and brought on a sweat.
The research found that optimal results were experienced when a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise time a week was met by workers. Additionally, the authors found that depression and work burnout rates were highest in the group that did not exercise at all. Improvements in health can be attributed to the fact that working out helps improve self-efficacy and self-esteem in those who exercise.
This research has significant implications for employers as well, since physically active employees can lower health care costs, reduce absenteeism and improve productivity. The research also showed that an increase in depression can trigger an increase in burnout at work, and vice versa. To prevent mental health deterioration, businesses can provide flexible hours that allow workers to exercise more, build gyms on company grounds and sponsor memberships to gyms in the community, according to Toker.