Photo by Tyler Nix.
In this issue of Science of Productivity, we’ll be tackling the question: why does taking a morning walk improve your cognition and productivity for the day?
In a recent Productivity Spotlight, I learned that taking a walk right after you wake up improves your productivity for the day. I wanted to do a quick dive into the science behind why that occurs. Let’s start with the lymphatic system.
What is your lymphatic system?
Your lymphatic or “lymph” system is part of your immune system and consists of a network of tissues and organs that include your tonsils, lymph nodes, spleen, and bone marrow, among others. The primary functions of your lymph system are to defend against illness, maintain stable body fluid levels, and remove cellular waste.
And how does walking affect the lymph system?
Unlike your circulatory system which leverages the heart to pump blood throughout your arteries, fluid only flows through your lymph system through the extension and compression of your body. You need to move to get the lymph fluids flowing and flush out that oxidative stress from your brain and body.
Unlike your circulatory system which leverages the heart to pump blood throughout your arteries, fluid only flows through your lymph system through the extension and compression of your body.
Wait a second, what is oxidative stress?
Oxidative stress is a blanket term for an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in your body caused by cellular waste. Studies have found that oxidative stress accumulates in your brain and leads to a number of cognitive impairments called brain fog. Symptoms of brain fog include an inability to concentrate, memory impairment, and low motivation.
Oxidative stress is a blanket term for an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in your body caused by cellular waste.
Got it. So... how does this all affect my productivity?
When you wake up in the morning, much of the brain fog you feel is due to oxidative stress caused by cellular waste buildup in your brain. The lymph system works to remove this cellular waste and oxidative stress. So by walking in the morning you jump start your lymph system, which in turn expels that cellular waste from your brain. By the time you get back to your desk, you will have cleared that brain fog and be ready to get down to work.
So by walking in the morning you jump start your lymph system, which in turn expels cellular waste from your brain.
Cool! Anything else?
Well yes, actually. Morning walks provide a ton of additional benefits.
A walk will immediately increase oxygen flow to your brain, which will also boost cognitive function. Walks also have been tied to an increased ability to think creatively.
Long-term, walking and general physical activities are one of the most important things you can do to boost your immune system and improve your health.
Want an even bigger boost to your productivity? Try grabbing a cup of coffee on your morning walk.
Macgill Davis is cofounder of Rize, a time tracker that improves focus and builds better work habits.