Clinical trial to measure correlation between physical fitness and brain function finds that exercise significantly increases happiness, productivity and cognition
SYDNEY, Australia — SAP AG (NYSE: SAP) Australia, announced the findings of a clinical trial conducted recently by the Brain Sciences Institute at Swinburne University, on 40 randomly selected SAP employees over a 60 day period. The study intervention was carried out by Professor Paul Taylor, founder of the Body Brain Performance Institute.
The research study looked at different measurable components of cognition using a neuropsychological test battery specifically developed by Swinburne’s Brain Science Institute. The test measured important aspects of brain function typical for people in management and executive positions, such as the ability of the brain to plan, remember, simulate future scenarios and make decisions.
Over 60 days, a total of 40 randomly selected SAP employees based in Melbourne took part in the clinical trial. Half of the employees represented the control group and the other half the exercise group. Both groups did a 10,000 steps per day walking program with the exercise group attending the gym three times a week to do a novel approach to resistance training in addition to the steps.
The trial, which ran from April to June this year, found a direct link between physical fitness and work participation, with productivity increases calculated at AU$2,500 per year per employee.
“The research showed that there is a very clear link between physical fitness and brain function,” said Prof. Taylor. “There were improvements in the employees’ mood and cognition from both of the groups, with the exercise group surpassing the results of the control group.”
The results of the trial found that by doing 10,000 steps a day, the control group received modest improvement in their BioAge and brain functions. Average exercise level for most Australian office workers is between 3,000 – 5,000 steps a day. The clinical trial established that when more vigorous exercise is added three times per week, BioAge and brain function increase significantly.
As a result, SAP will be rolling out the 10,000 steps walking program for its employees in Australia, supported by an online wellness platform developed by The Body-Brain Performance Institute. With the Institute’s help, SAP is looking to promote health, mental well-being and resilience of its employees, which brings both individual and business benefits.
“SAP has a very strong commitment to nurturing and developing its employees. This program provides a way in which we can offer support to both their physical and mental fitness, and increase overall productivity across the business,” said Tim Ebbeck, President and Managing Director, SAP Australia and New Zealand. “It’s a great program.”
The clinical trial established that:
The employees who attended the gym as well as completing the 10,000 steps showed significant increases in alertness and energy levels
The trial also measured levels of anger and stress. The results showed that there was no improvement of anger level with the walking group but the exercise group’s levels dropped significantly. The results established that in order to really control stress levels and burn adrenaline, vigorous exercise is needed
In addition to mood, the clinical trial also looked at cognition. Both of the groups improved their reaction time with the exercise group arriving at decisions much faster
Working memory, the ability to actively hold information in the mind needed to do complex tasks such as reasoning, judgement and decision-making, improved by 2% with the walking group and by 4% with the exercise group. Working memory tasks are those that require the goal-oriented active monitoring or manipulation of information or behaviours in the face of interfering processes and distractions
The trial also looked at accuracy vs. reaction time. Normally when the brain carries out an action quicker, it tends to be less accurate and vice versa. While the Control group didn’t show much improvement in the correlation, the exercise group’s accuracy and reaction times both improved.
The exercise group performed much better than the walking group in a classic ‘stress-test’ measure of brain function
Participation of SAP employees in the clinical trial came after Prof. Taylor held a two-day Neuroscience of Leadership workshop with Colin Sampson, Senior Vice President & CFO, SAP Asia Pacific and his leadership team. The workshop focused on maintaining a healthy work-life balance, good nutrition, stress optimisation, rest and regular exercise, all leading to an improvement in individual and team performance.
Paul Taylor is an exercise physiologist and nutritionist who is also Research Professor of Exercise Science at the University of San Francisco. Among his many achievements is developing the BioAge software (as seen on The Biggest Loser 2009 & 2010) and the creation of Australia’s first Body-Brain Fitness Centre in Melbourne (www.acumotum.com).
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