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Study: Want Better Work-Life Balance? Exercise

Researchers have found that exercise plays a role in how individuals feel they can manage their work-life balance.

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Study: Want Better Work-Life Balance? Exercise.Image courtesy of Dick Jones Communications“Individuals who exercised regularly were more confident they could handle the interaction of their work and home life and were less likely to be stressed at work,” said Russell Clayton, assistant professor of management at Saint Leo University and lead author on the paper.

Conflict between work and home can be categorized in two ways.  Work interference with family describes typical job-based pressures that can lead to interference (either time or psychologically) of family time.  Family interference with work is when personal issues find a way into the workday and compete with “work time.”  Researchers wanted to find if exercise helped both. 

Previous studies have shown that exercise helps to reduce stress.  A previous study examined Tai Chi exercise programs over 12 weeks.  Another study looked at high-intensity aerobic exercise.  Both showed reductions of self-reported stress.  What researchers didn’t know is if the reduction of stress actually helped empower individuals to feel they had better work-life balance. 

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“The idea sounds counterintuitive. How is it that adding something else to our work day helps to alleviate stress and empower us to deal with work-family issues?  We think exercise is a way to psychologically detach from work – you’re not there physically and you’re not thinking about it either – and, furthermore, it can help us feel good about ourselves.” 

Researchers examined responses of 476 working adults to survey questions.  Respondents were asked on a four-point scale (1 never – 4 always) questions about exercise behavior.  For example, “I exercise more than three days a week.”  Respondents were then asked a number of questions on a 7-point scale (strongly disagree – strongly agree) about their confidence in handling work-family conflicts.

“Our findings suggest that employers can help employees with work-life balance by encouraging them to exercise.”

These findings are forthcoming in Human Resource Management.  Researchers were from Saint Leo University, Saint Louis University, University of Houston – Victoria and Illinois State University.