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Why it’s easier to think on your feet—literally


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When you have a mental block, it can feel like there’s no essential-oil combination or refocusing trick in the world that can get you back on track. To reinvigorate your mind, you’ve probably been told to take a break and go for a walk—which might sound like the last thing you want to do when you have a looming deadline, but as the The New York Times reports, a new study is backing up that sage advice.

The research, published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, put nine sedentary, overweight people (an admittedly small sample size) in a simulated office environment. For one day, the participants went about their work in typical fashion (mostly sitting for the entirety of the eight hours), and for the next three days, they stood up and worked at a treadmill desk or a modified under-desk bicycle (a contraption likely similar to this). Every day, the participants were given tests that examined their thinking skills.

Not only is moving while you’re working good for your health, but doing so improved the participants’ test scores compared to when they were sedentary.

As it turned out, not only is moving while you’re working good for your health (sitting for eight hours can wreak a lot of havoc on your body, according to the American Heart Association, for one), but doing so improved the participants’ test scores compared to when they were sedentary. The most drastic improvement in scores came after people started bicycling—which Glenn Gaesser, a professor at Arizona State University who oversaw the study, said probably had to with the creativity-inducing novelty of biking to work. In general, however, Gaesser told the Times that that “the physical and mental arousal” of breaking up the monotony of sitting likely had to do with the improved cognitive skills.

Since study was so narrow, in terms of participants and time period, the changes could also be related to the novelty of changing the way in which you work. But, hey, at the very least, getting up and doing a quick desk workout can’t be bad for your health.

For a healthy office life, here are 10 ways to de-stress at your desk, and what you need to know about treadmill desks.

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