How 20 Minutes of Exercise May Help You Push Past That Afternoon Work Slump

The science doesn’t lie.

By: Emily Freeman

Is it just us, or does 5 p.m. feel like dinnertime and 8 p.m. feel like bedtime? The time change and colder days can mess with your natural circadian rhythm. Even though your body does eventually adjust, between the shorter and colder days, and pandemic stress, your memory and focus can feel off. 

Caffeine and satisfying midday sweet cravings temporarily minimize the afternoon slump. However, between the crash and effects on your sleep, you may create a vicious cycle that ends up creating a whole separate issue. Don’t worry, we got the natural antidote to keep you at peak performance… take a guess, we dare you…. exercise! We know you definitely didn’t see that one coming, but the science doesn’t lie. 

Ahead, we’re sharing more about the connection between exercise and focus. 

The Science on Exercise For Memory, Focus, and Productivity

#1 It’s Mother Nature’s Natural Mood Booster 

When you feel low, it can be hard to get the motivation to be productive, and your memory suffers. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals, endorphins, which act like natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) that get you off the couch and conquering the world! Adhering to your fitness goals (i.e., working out three times a week) also improves your self-efficacy, or confidence in yourself, which helps you realize your true potential to go beyond your comfort zone. 

#2 Exercise May Help You Feel More Zen When Stressors Pop Up Throughout The Day 

If you’re trying to meet a tight deadline, learn a new skill, or dealing with a demanding boss, you may experience anxiety. The majority of us have experienced anxiety that feels threatening and makes your brain feel foggy or distracted. It’s hard to perform optimally if your mind is racing. An overstimulated amygdala, or your flight or fight response, is the captain of anxiety. Exercise activates the frontal regions of the brain, which simmers this response and brings you back to reality. 

#3 Exercise Boosts the Brain Chemicals That Improve Focus 

3 p.m. is a hard time to stay focused after a long day of kicking butt. However, these are precious hours that can be the difference between getting by (or worse, getting behind) and achieving new milestones. Exercise may play a part in expanding the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory. It also releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a chemical that rewires memory circuits, so they work optimally. 

Exercise and Memory: Lunchtime Workout Playlist

Whether you have ten minutes or 30, we’ve lined up our favorite uplifting workouts to fit into your work schedule to keep you energized and focused. 

#1 Tabata Toner with Breann Mitchell 

When you only have a little time to spare, it’s important to get the most out of your workout. This intense workout gets your heart rate pumping and endorphins soarin’ in no time. 

#2 Orangetheory: Power Hour

This quick workout will get your heart rate up, burn major calories, and leave you feeling euphoric and energized to get you through the rest of your busy day. 

#3 HIIT & Go with Danielle Pascente 

HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is one of the best workouts to produce a whopping serving of dopamine and serotonin. It will also leave you burning more calories even after you finish the workout. This HIIT & Go workout will give you the post-workout glow to keep you productive and motivated. 

#4 Fully Loaded with Kenta Seki 

If you have 12 minutes to spare, there’s no better way than to boost your mood and energy levels (and make you look A-mazing) than by making all the major muscle groups go to work. This total body workout does just that. Grab a set of dumbbells and get ready to sweat. 

Remember to Always Listen To Your Body

When you’re feeling less focused and fatigued, it’s important to first ask yourself, “Is this coming from my mind or my body?” When our mind gets in the way of our goals, this is when you want to use exercise to help stimulate memory and focus and relax racing thoughts. However, if your body is telling you to rest, it’s important to listen and go easy.