Bike commuteEveryone knows that exercise has major health benefits. Now, new research suggests that exercise improves work performance, with specific benefit to memory and the ability to multitask. So if you needed another reason to hop on a bike, now you have it.

Granted, health experts have known for quite some time about the positive impact exercise has on the brain. But until recently, they knew very little about how this happens. Now they think they do: Exercise increases the production of a specific protein that improves recall and overall brain function.

And you don’t need to run a marathon or bike 50 miles to reap its rewards. A recent New York Times article cites a study which found that just five minutes of exercise several days per week, over the course of five weeks, markedly improved rats’ memory function.

But is strenuous exercise more beneficial than light exercise? Not necessarily. In fact, Charles Hillman, a kinesiology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says studies have shown that the lightest and heaviest doses of physical activity have the least impact. He also points to research which suggests that, for cognitive functioning, moderate doses of walking can have significant benefits over time.

If you walk or bike to work, take on your most challenging tasks right when you get to the office, since the benefits of exercise on brain function start to wear off after about an hour (sorry, procrastinators).

And if walking or biking to work isn’t an option, consider taking a brisk walk at lunchtime. You’ll get fresh air and the exercise which’ll allow you to crank up your afternoon productivity.

written by Green Life/Sierra Club