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What evidence or studies exist to suggest that people who are physically fit and following good nutrition experience increased personal productivity?

On the one hand, I would expect that when one feels fit and healthy and eats well, one would feel an increase in energy which could lead to improved productivity.

On the other hand, eating well may take more preparation time, and regular exercise also takes both time and energy.

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Swapped the "Studies" tag to less ambiguous (in the context of this site) "Research". – Dmitry Selitskiy Jun 23 '11 at 9:25

Exercise can make you think better, more creatively, refresh the brain, your energy level, etc. It does take energy, but it gives you some too in the long run. Also, exercise doesn't have to be boring - sports are fun. But if you don't want to waste time while exercising, you can read while on an exercise bike.

As for eating well, one can buy a salad at a store which doesn't take long at all!

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Great find! The implications of this linked article on productivity and workflow transcend the scope of this answer, but just a comment: exercise and then go study (anything)! As if the attention boost hadn't been enough reason already. – Vic Goldfeld Dec 5 '11 at 18:35

Not only does health contributes to an improved wellness, it's also been proven to prevent losses in productivity due to own illness or that of a family member. Technically speaking that is. One can still claim illness for the purpose of skipping a day or two at work but still using his time better than if he was sick.

A study of the Commonwealth Fund (2005) reports that "labor time lost due to health reasons represents lost economic output totaling $260 billion per year". Add a few more billions to preventable physician expenses and guess what most of them are going to recommend? "You should consider exercising regularly and having a healthier diet." Oh what a surprise! Regular exercising can also prevent facepalms.

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You asked about evidence and I may not provide scientific evidence, but can provide my personal notes and experience. You can consider that as a sample type of answer, because there will be many people like me in this world (I cannot be such a unique sample after all :))

I have seen many successful people, and most of them (about 80%) appear fit. Mostly all the media people and executives look fit. Now they became successful and then they purchased fitness, or they were fit and hence that fitness helped achieving the success. This is still debatable, but I want to believe the former point.

Personally when I do not miss by workouts (Cycling, Treadmill, Cross-trainer, Abs), I feel confident and more creative than when I miss them in a day.

There are some chemicals which gets mixed into blood by exercising. Those chemicals keep you more creative, better attentive for decision making and confident in your daily chores.

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I think there is a correlation here that may or many not be causation. Successful people are often fit looking. But part of being a leader is networking and socially people like other people who don't look like they are falling apart. Just like most United States Presidents have been tall. – Jeanne Boyarsky Jun 23 '11 at 3:06
The former? You didn't mean the latter? Though believing in just purchasing your way to happiness and quality of life once you're rich ain't a bad dream. – Vic Goldfeld Dec 5 '11 at 18:38

John Medina in "Brain Rules" provides a strong point on how important exercise is to our brain.

Here is the start:


  1. Exercise boosts brain power.

    The human brain evolved under conditions of almost constant motion. From this, one might predict that the optimal environment for processing information would include motion. That is exactly what one finds. Indeed, the best business meeting would have everyone walking at about 1.8 miles per hour.

    Researchers studied two elderly populations that had led different lifestyles, one sedentary and one active. Cognitive scores were profoundly influenced. Exercise positively affected executive function, spatial tasks, reaction times and quantitative skills.

    So researchers asked: If the sedentary populations become active, will their cognitive scores go up? Yes, it turns out, if the exercise is aerobic. In four months, executive functions vastly improve; longer, and memory scores improve as well.

    Exercise improves cognition for two reasons:

    1. Exercise increases oxygen flow into the brain, which reduces brain-bound free radicals. One of the most interesting findings of the past few decades is that an increase in oxygen is always accompanied by an uptick in mental sharpness.

    2. Exercise acts directly on the molecular machinery of the brain itself. It increases neurons’ creation, survival, and resistance to damage and stress.

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Research methodology like this is highly suspect: “Researchers studied two elderly populations that had led different lifestyles, one sedentary and one active. Cognitive scores were profoundly influenced.” – user179700 Aug 3 '11 at 6:37

Research at the University of Bristol shows that exercise boosts cognitive function, creativity, problem solving and and productivity; here is an excerpt:

In 2005, a study conducted by the University of Bristol suggested that doing exercise before going to work, or at lunchtime, helps eliminate stress and improves productivity. The study concluded that people who did some exercise before work felt more motivated to face the daily workload than those who did nothing. These workers showed higher concentration rates and better time management, finishing more tasks on time than the rest. Furthermore, they acknowledged being in a better mood during training days and, therefore, their interpersonal relationships at work improved.

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