The Trick to a Happier Workday

If you can spare 30 minutes at lunchtime you can improve your mood instantly, according to a recent study

Those of us who work a nine-to-five and sit for hours on end know the afternoon drag all too well. That 3 p.m. lag characterized by drained energy, clouded focus and, sometimes, a lousy mood to go with it. The workday can be pretty rough, but it doesn't have to be.

If you can spare just half of your lunch hour, researchers say you can improve your mood, health and ability to deal with daily stress. All you need to do is walk.

In a recent study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports this month, researchers recruited 56 office workers to take part in their study. The majority of volunteers were middle-aged women who, though otherwise healthy, were out of shape. The researchers said they asked men but few chose to join in, likely because walking isn't considered strenuous exercise.

The study split the group in half, requiring that one half walked 30 minutes at lunch hour, three times per week, and the other half continue with their sedentary lunch hour. The experiment went on for 10 weeks and then researchers asked the sedentary group to begin the walking program. The office workers were asked to record their feelings on an app in order to accurately track changes in mood.

After testing was finished, researchers compared the walking group in the first 10 weeks to the sedentary group and they also compared the individuals who were sedentary for the first 10 weeks against themselves once they began walking. When the results came in, those who walked at lunch reported feeling more enthusiastic, less on edge and better able to handle stress than their sedentary counterparts. As an added bonus, the results also showed improved aerobic fitness and health scores for the walking group.

Though we've known for a while that every little bit of exercise helps, this is one of the few studies that examines changes in attitudes of office workers based on just a bit of exercise. Though it's a fairly small sample, the results are encouraging. Be sure to get your afternoon walk in for a workday boost.

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