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How Your Gym Workout Prevents Work Burnout

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Employee burnout is a $300 billion problem worldwide. Just under half of American workers reporting feeling "a disabling reaction to stress on the job," according to a survey done by the American Institute of Stress. And a large chunk of that pricetag is due to employee's health problems triggered by stress.

It's easy to see why—when your job is dangerous, frustrating, or even just boring, repeated stress can cause everything from depression to an increased risk of heart disease to an earlier death. (Don't miss these 10 Weird Ways Your Body Reacts to Stress.) Even if you love your job work is still, well, work. This is why researchers from Australia were determined to find simple, cost-effective ways to help prevent workplace burnout. While their answer—exercise!—may not surprise you, how it works and how well it works will have you scheduling a lunchtime Zumba class pronto.

The study, just published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, divided sedentary workers in three groups: One set did an aerobics program, another did resistance training, and a third remained sedentary (poor control group!). The people took a test to measure their "burned-out-edness" before the exercise intervention, two weeks into it, and four weeks after the experiment finished.

The results: Both the cardio and strength groups reported feeling less overall stress and greater overall well-being. (No surprise there!) But the cardio people said they specifically felt less psychological pressure and emotional exhaustion from work. The strength crowd felt more of a sense of personal accomplishment and less perceived stress at their jobs. The exercise experiment worked so well that over half of the people who exercised said they didn't feel burned out at all by the end, with the other half saying that while they still had some stress, it was lessened. No such luck for the non-exercisers, who reported being as frazzled as ever!

While researchers note that their study was small (just under 100 people), the results were so overwhelmingly positive that they recommend all companies find a way to encourage their workers to break a sweat. And if your workplace isn't that progressive yet? Take matters into your own hands: Organize walking meetings, lunchtime yoga, or happy-hour bootcamp class. Just be sure to incorporate both strength training and cardio to get the full range of protection and health benefits! (Here's Why You Should Join a Walking Group.)

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