Take Your Lunch Breaks—All of Them

Even if it means eating a bar on the bike

The ideal lunch break consists of a workout in addition to an actual lunch—neither taking place in front of your computer. (annebaek/iStock)
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It’s time to ditch lunch with your computer. Get your blood pumping instead, and you could wind up a more efficient worker all afternoon, no extra screen time required.

“Exercise, particularly intense exercise, for just 30 minutes can increase brain plasticity, science-speak for improved memory,” says nutritionist Mike Roussell. Just 20 minutes of aerobic activity at 60 to 70 percent of your max heart rate, researchers have found, can improve creativity. The final result of your lunchtime exercise: a supercharged afternoon in which you’ll likely get more done than you would have if you’d stayed glued to your chair, not to mention a big step toward your training goals.

The right way to do it: Work out, and then eat lunch. “Exercise has powerful effects on insulin sensitivity,” Roussell says. “So exercising before you eat improves your body's ability to shuttle those lunchtime carbs to your muscles and away from your fat cells.”

When you’re eating, eat; don’t do anything else. Chowing down in front of your computer screen can make you eat more calories at that meal—and later in the day, Roussell says. In a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that people who ate in front of a computer screen—study participants played video games—ate two times more cookies later in the day than the people who didn't eat in front of the screen. The people who ate in front of the screen also reported feeling less full from their meal. 

“Satiety is a cascade of signals that we need to recognize and pay attention to for them to work the most effectively,” says Roussell. If you’re answering emails, chatting with the guy next to you, and trying to finish up a report, you’re not giving your food your full attention. That could compromise your feelings of satiety, he adds. Eat in the break room. When you get back to your desk, you’ll be satisfied—and you might finally come up with that elusive million-dollar idea.

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