Think you’re too busy working to work out? Think twice before skipping that trip to the gym. You may be doing your career more harm than good. Research shows that staying active can have not only physical and emotional benefits, but can give you a professional boost as well.

We all know the drill: You’re working late hours, skipping meals (that or eating out of the vending machine), not getting enough sleep each night, all in the name of climbing the corporate ranks faster and getting ahead.  Between work and family obligations, workouts come sometime between “tomorrow” and never. But are you really getting ahead?

The proof is in the (Brain) Muscle
In addition to helping you look and feel better, regular workouts can make you more resilient, sharper and increase productivity and efficiency. According to the Mayo Clinic exercise has been proven to boost energy levels throughout the day and help your body handle stress. Active people may also have lower rates of depression and anxiety. Research points to changes in brain chemistry and changes in body temperature and cardiorespiratory function during exercise as the reason. Staying in tip top shape will help you bring your strongest, healthiest and best-self to work.

Effects on Salary
It turns out that your salary may also be affected by your commitment to staying healthy and active. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2011 found that slender women out-earned their overweight female colleagues by a significant margin. The same however did exactly ring true for men, Men of moderate weight, meanwhile, earned more than both slender men and overweight men. These prejudices are undoubtedly unjust, but never the less, getting in shape may help boost your earning power.

What you can do right NOW
Stop making excuses and find new ways to get active. Set an alarm on your phone and get up from your desk briefly every 20 minutes. View a list of exercises you can do at or near your desk. I found these short office workout videos particularly amusing if you’re in need of a good laugh. Squeeze in a workout at lunch. Recruit a co-worker to make it more fun.  A group of Brightwingers recently hit up Airtime on their lunch break and burned an average of 300 calories each in just 1 hour. Forget the gym and walk/jog the stairs. Skip happy hour and meet up with friends after work for a a workout class. The CEO of Brightwing, Aaron Chernow, says “Get up early!” As a CEO and father of three, time is short, but nothing can get in the way of his early morning workout.

(Image from: FitSpace – Graphic can be purchased on a mug.)Exercises you can do at your desk

What Can Companies Do?
Companies should be tuned into the health of their employees as well. A study published in Health Affairs found that for every dollar invested in a comprehensive workplace wellness program, companies saved $3.27 in medical costs and $2.73 in costs associated to absenteeism.  Effective workplace wellness programs have a positive impact on budgets, productivity and health outcomes. Learn more about the profits of a healthy workplace.

Get Creative! Offer lunch-time yoga/Pilates classes (Brightwing does and it’s awesome!), convert a conference room in your office into a mini gym. All you need is a few treadmills or elliptical machines, jump ropes and free weights.

Now get moving!