Do Runners Make Better Employees Than Non-Runners?

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Are running employees more productive than non-running employees? Do Runners Make Better Employees Than Non-Runners?

Call them crazy, but at least give them this: Runners are a diligent bunch. They’re up at the crack of dawn, braving freezing winds and pouring rain, to log some pre-work miles. Then they’re in bed by 9 on a Friday night in preparation for that big race the next day. And, more often than not, you can find them stretching, rolling or planking in their spare time. Impressive, no?

And, admirable as this may be, it gets even better. Because the best part is that they do all of this without being held at gunpoint. They love it. They want to do it. And they do it with a smile. Now that’s impressive. Which brings us to the next question: Does this discipline and passion carry over into runners’ jobs? Do runners make better employees than non-runners? Many seem to think so.

Reasons Why Runners Make Good Employees

And while some argue that pre-work runs leave runners feeling drained for the rest of the day, others disagree. So what exactly is the impact of running on employees generally believed to be?

What Runners Have to Say

A study conducted prior to the 2016 London Marathon revealed that 85.7% of 1000 members of Britain’s marathon running workforce believed that marathon training does not negatively impact on their ability to do their job. A further 87.7% of study participants felt that running during their leisure time improved their productivity at work. And it also comes as no surprise that 78.9% of study participants believed that the discipline required for marathon training helped them focus and commit in their careers.

But this obviously doesn’t paint the whole picture. Of course runners would be bias, right? So what do the experts have to say?

What the Experts Have to Say

Wendy A. Suzuki, a professor of Neural Science and Psychology in the Center for Neural Science at New York University, is a big advocate of the neurological benefits of exercise. According to Suzuki, exercise has the following proven neurological benefits that may come in handy in the workplace:

  • It helps relieve stress. By immediately increasing the levels of a number of key neurotransmitters, exercise boosts mood and counteracts the negative feelings associated with chronic stressors. In other words, employees who run regularly are generally happier and less stressed than those who don’t.

  • Exercise improves our ability to focus attention. A 2015 study by Suzuki and her colleagues found that acute exercise improves the functioning of the prefrontal cortex for up to two hours after exercise. Which, in practice, means that employees who go for an early-morning or lunchtime run will have an improved ability to focus for up to two hours after running.
  • Higher levels of physical activity may result in improved memory. Although this has not been tested on human subjects, studies in rodents have revealed that increased levels of physical activity increase both the birth rate and survival of newly generated hippocampal cells. The hippocampus of the brain is intricately involved in our long-term memory. So, in other words, employees who exercise may have better memories than non-exercising individuals.

  • Exercise may contribute to increased creativity at work. Recent studies have revealed that the hippocampus of the brain is involved in our ability to imagine unknown situations. And since exercise is known to boost the birth of new hippocampus cells, it might therefore also assist with improving the creative functions of the hippocampus. Which basically boils down to increased levels of creativity in employees who run regularly.
  • And lastly, for older members of the workforce, the longer and more often you engage in physical exercise throughout your life, the less likely you are to suffer cognitive decline as you age. Which means that a physically fit older workforce is also more likely to be mentally sharper.

And while Suzuki acknowledges that more research is needed on some of these aspects, the positive mental impact of regular exercise on the workforce is undeniable.

Runners in High Places

But wait, there’s more. In addition to the benefits of regular exercise for all levels of employment, a 2014 study looked at the link between the physical fitness of CEOs and company value. This study looked at data from 1500 different companies between 2001 and 2011 and found that companies managed by marathon running CEOs were 5% more valuable than those headed by non-runners. In addition, companies lead by high-stress CEOs (i.e. CEOs over the age of 55 and those who sat on multiple corporate boards) were 8 to 10% more valuable when lead by runners. Food for thought, right?

In Conclusion

So whether you’re a first-time job seeker, or a high-stress CEO, the benefits of exercise are irrefutable. In the words of Professor Suzuki:

So get up, get moving, and reap running’s benefits in all areas of your life!