Shaw Anchor in his book "The Happiness Advantage" states that "happiness is the pre-cursor to success, not the result". A successful business or team is the combined efforts of successful individuals... and so if happiness is the pre-cursor to success how can we help our teams get happier?
Happiness is the outcome of many factors - there is no magic happiness pill - but regular exercise has a big part to play.
So why does working out help our mood and how much or what type of exercise is best?
Our brains on exercise
When you start exercising your brain reacts as though it's under stress. You heart starts pumping, blood pressure rises and your brain figures its a "fight or flight" moment. As a protection mechanism your release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This protein has both protective and repairing elements to your memory neurons and acts a little like a reboot - a reason why we are often clearer and at ease after exercising.
Then there's the endorphins. The feel good chemicals designed to minimise the discomfort of exercise and at times they even create a sense of euphoria. And some dopamine, also released when we work out, and you've got an amazing cocktail of 'feel good' chemicals right there.
To get the maximum & sustained happiness benefits (and corresponding impact on performance and productivity) one work out a week doesn't cut it. The exercise needs to be regular. Like every day.
A study from Penn University showed that:
"Those who had exercised during the preceding month but not on the day of testing generally did better on the memory test than those who had been sedentary, but did not perform nearly as well as those who had worked out that morning."
So what that means is for maximum benefit get your exercise shoes on every day.
If the idea of daily exercise feels a little like bad news, the good news is that you don't need to be training for your first marathon or on the path to becoming a professional athlete. 20 minutes a day is about all you need to get the happiness levels ticking over.
What type of exercise is best?
This is the super good news. Because the answer is... whatever kind of exercise you want to do. Cardio, strength training, indoor or outdoor - though Rutgers University suggested that moderate strength training works best and other research has suggested that walking in nature calms us more than walking in urban environments.
But choose the things you enjoy - walking, yoga, boxing, tai chi, morris dancing.. what ever you enjoy you're more likely to do.
The bottom line.. commit to a minimum of 20 minutes a day of something that will get the blood pumping & the endorphins flowing and 'work out' your way to happiness.