How to Cycle Your Way to Better Work Productivity

It's true: Pedaling can pump up your brainpower and your performance at work.

Indoor cycling class
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Have you ever considered the possibility that taking an indoor cycling class early in the morning or at lunchtime could enhance your productivity and performance at work? There’s a very good chance of it. In fact, if you want to feel sharper, more creative, more fully energized and engaged at work, indoor-cycling could become your most powerful secret weapon.

Here’s why: Research suggests that doing moderate to vigorous cardiovascular exercise (like indoor cycling) has positive effects on brain function, which could in turn boost your job performance.

It’s not just because a vigorous aerobic workout cranks up circulation to your brain, delivering oxygen and nutrients that improve cognitive performance, although that’s certainly part of it. It’s also because a pulse-pounding workout stimulates the release of neurotransmitters and other brain chemicals that enhance attention, learning, motivation, arousal and other cognitive functions.

What’s more, research has found that cycling at a moderate intensity increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that promotes brain cell growth and helps with nerve transmission and modulation. These effects optimize cognitive function by augmenting brain circuitry in ways that help you better absorb information, process it, recall it, and put that 411 to good use.

Here are seven more ways indoor cycling can pump up your brainpower and your performance at work:

It enhances your short-term memory

Even a single 30-minute bout of moderate intensity cycling improves working memory performance after the session, according to a 2014 study at the University of Iowa.

This suggests you may want to sneak in a cycling session before tackling an organization-challenging, memory-taxing project at work. Research also suggests that a moderate to vigorous cycling session can bolster your ability to perform planning and problem-solving tasks, key components (along with working memory) of what’s known as executive function.


Cycling helps you learn new skills more effectively

Research from Denmark found that when people performed an intense bout of cycling, then practiced a visual-motor tracking task, they mastered the motor skill faster and retained it better a week later.

It allows you to complete cognitive tasks more quickly

It’s not just your heart rate and breathing that get revved up with indoor cycling; your brainpower can, too. A study from the University of Chichester in the U.K. found that after participants completed a 30-minute cycling session at a moderate intensity, they completed a cognitive task faster but just as accurately as they did before riding; these benefits continued for at least 52 minutes after the ride.

It helps you focus your attention

A 2014 study at the University of California Santa Barbara had participants perform a visual search task in the presence of various visual distractions after completing a somewhat hard session of endurance cycling. After evaluating the participants’ overall fitness level, it turned out that those who were more physically fit performed the visual search tasks more quickly than their less-fit peers.

In other words, cycling hard can help you home in on what’s really important and weed out what isn’t.

Exercising during the workday can help you get more done

Research has found that white-collar workers are more productive on the days when they exercise aerobically than when they don’t—and they’re in a better mood! Maybe it’s because a pulse-pumping workout helps your thinking become clearer and sharper, which helps you work more efficiently.

It inflates your self-confidence and self-esteem

When you push through the mental and physical challenges that are part of any moderately vigorous indoor cycling experience, you come out of the experience feeling stronger, more empowered, maybe even a bit kick-ass. The psychological boost you get from these effects and the surge of feel-good endorphins can inspire you to take smart chances or expand your comfort zone at work and in the rest of your life.

Who knows? Participating in indoor cycling on a regular basis could just earn you a promotion.

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