Study of the Day: Burning Calories at the Gym Prevents Work Burnout

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Research shows that employees who regularly exercise don't just bolster physical health, but also safeguard psychological well-being.

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PROBLEM: Work-related stress can lead to depression and burnout. Can exercise help?

METHODOLOGY: To examine the impact of physical activity on mental health, researchers Sharon Toker and Michal Biron evaluated the personal, occupational, and psychological states of 1,632 Israeli workers who completed questionnaires when they came to clinics for routine check-ups and follow-up appointments over a period of nine years. For their analysis, they divided the subjects into four groups: one that did not engage in exercise, which was defined as any activity that increases the heart rate and brings on a sweat; a second that did 75 to 150 minutes of physical activity a week; a third that did 150 to 240 minutes a week; and a fourth that worked out for more than four hours a week.

RESULTS: The more the participants exercised, the less likely they were to experience a decline in their psychological well-being during the next three years. More precisely, those who accomplished a weekly minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity were about half as likely to burn out or get depressed as those who did not exert themselves.

CONCLUSION: Employees who consistently work out to improve their physical health are also safeguarding their mental health.

IMPLICATION: Managers should encourage their staff to exercise to prevent absenteeism and poor performance associated with depression and burnout.

SOURCE: The full study, "Job Burnout and Depression: Unraveling Their Temporal Relationship and Considering the Role of Physical Activity," is published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Image: olly/Shutterstock.

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Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

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