If you think you can never be too rich, too thin or too happy, it’s time to put on your sneakers.
In a recent New York Times blog post, Jane Brody asks what it would take to persuade you to exercise—a desire to shed pounds, achieve specific health goals or gain eternal youth?
But what about making more money on the job?
That’s right, research shows that working out on a regular basis may plump up your wallet, while decreasing your waistline and improving your health. For example, a recent study at Cleveland State University finds a six to ten percent wage increase for employees who engage in regular physical exercise.
Data from our own National Study of the Changing Workforce show that employees who exercise on a regular basis—e.g., two to four times per week on average—fare better financially than employees who exercise less frequently, or not at all:
• 26% of regular exercisers report earning more than $65,000 annually at their jobs (the top quartile of annual earnings), compared with 19% of employees who exercise infrequently.
If money doesn’t motivate you to get off your couch, or up from your desk, then how about happiness? As Brody points out, recent findings suggest people are more likely to be motivated by the immediate benefits of physical activities—e.g., feeling more relaxed or sleeping better after a workout—than by the more distant benefits of losing weight or aging gracefully.
When it comes to the intangible benefits of regular physical exercise, our data supports the notion that “more” is better. For starters, employees who exercise regularly are less likely to experience symptoms of depression, difficulty sleeping or minor health problems, such as headaches or upset stomachs.
In addition, employees who exercise more feel less stressed, even though they are actually more likely to put in long hours at work than employees who exercise less frequently!
Working more hours, of course, helps explain why employees who exercise tend to earn more money. But where do they find the energy to work hard and play hard?
Our data show that exercising regularly is related to employees feeling energized by their work and personal lives:
• 51% of frequent exercisers (i.e., those who more than four times a week on average) feel their personal life gives them more energy for work, compared with 46% of infrequent exercisers.
• 33% of frequent exercisers feel their work energizes their personal life, compared with 38% of infrequent exercisers.
In light of these findings, it’s not surprising our data also shows that employees who exercise tend to be happier with their lives overall than their colleagues who can’t quite find the time, energy or motivation for physical activity:
• 47% of employees who exercise frequently report being highly satisfied with their lives overall, compared with 38% infrequent exercisers.
So, forget about eternal youth or looking good in that bikini—get moving and get happy!
Kerstin Aumann is Senior Research Associate at Families and Work Institute. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.