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The Mind-Body Connection: Enhancing Cognitive Function for Knowledge Management Workers through Physical Activity

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The Mind-Body Connection: Enhancing Cognitive Function for Knowledge Management Workers through Physical Activity

Apr 08, 2024   |  By
KMI Guest Blogger Amanda Winstead

Knowledge management (KM) is a fast-paced, demanding field. As a KM professional, you’ll spend most of your day analyzing data, communicating with stakeholders, and making critical business decisions based on the insights that you uncover.

Left unchecked, this full-on approach to KM can cause stress and cognitive strain. Without adequate rest and recovery, this can undermine your ability to process data and may worsen your decision-making process.

Rather than letting stress impact your KM capabilities, take proactive steps to protect your mental focus and cognitive agility. Even simple exercises, like walking during your lunch break, can enhance your mental clarity and boost your ability to think critically while under pressure.

The Mind-Body Connection

If you’ve ever felt fatigued after a cold or low after a busy day at the office, you already understand the crucial connection between the mind and the body. When you put yourself through too much mental strain your physical health will falter. Conversely, failing to take care of your physical well-being will lead to diminishing cognitive function and ailing mental health.

This sentiment is supported by Dr. Scott McGinnis, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School. McGinnis explains that “regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions.” Researchers from the Harvard Medical School also posit that physical exercise can improve your:

●      Mood;

●      Memory;

●      Resilience when stressed;

●      Sleep;

●      Cognitive function.

This makes sense on an anecdotal level, too. You’re almost certainly more productive at work when you feel happy and are mentally alert. Similarly, you’re far more likely to spot errors and adjust to sudden changes when you’re well-rested and feel refreshed.

Improving your cognitive function through physical activity doesn’t require you to run marathons or become a bodybuilder, either. Sometimes simple changes, like walking more regularly and learning a new skill like Tai Chi, can give a mental boost and help you use your KM skills to lead healthy changes at work.

Finding Time

If you’re a busy KM professional, you probably don’t have time to swim a hundred lengths an evening or cycle to work. However, this doesn’t mean you should overlook physical activity or cancel your gym membership. Instead, focus on developing habits that embody the kinds of changes you want to see in the workplace.

If you work from home and want to spend more time working out, consider converting your garage into a home gym. A home gym makes it easier to work up a sweat when you’re on your work break and gives you all the tools you need to improve your health before or after work. If a home gym sounds appealing to you, get started by:

●      Decluttering and deep cleaning the space;

●      Create a floor plan with accurate estimations of how the equipment will fit in your space;

●      Upgrade the flooring to avoid cracking tiles or concrete;

●      Add insulation and an HVAC system to improve your comfort,

You don’t have to break the bank while buying home gym equipment, either. Look for used sports stores in the area or utilize sites like Craigslist and Facebook. Alternatively, if lifting weights isn’t your thing, consider signing up for subscription-based services like Peloton or Echelon. These spin-style services are perfect if you’re low on time but still want to boost your physical and mental health.

Long-Term Lifestyle Changes

You’ll need to make some lifestyle changes if you want to protect your physical health and improve your cognitive function. Without a health-positive approach to life, you’re almost certain to run into chronic health issues that will undermine your performance as a KM professional and will detract from your ability to lead a team.

Start by adjusting your desk setup to improve the ergonomics of your workplace. An ergonomic approach can mitigate the risk of injury and help you stay active for longer. When making adjustments to improve ergonomics, consider factors like:

●      Sit with your legs at ninety degrees;

●      Raise the monitor so the top of the screen is at eye level;

●      Get up and move your body at least once every 30 minutes;

●      Don’t hunch; instead, keep your arms at a right angle and use a laptop holder to maintain proper posture.

These simple changes can alleviate the risk of headaches due to poor posture and will ensure you do not pick up repetitive strain injuries. When you do decide to take breaks from the screen, consider rehydrating and eating a healthy, balanced snack. This might look something like:

●      A tall glass of water;

●      A water-dense fruit or vegetable (cucumbers, oranges, watermelon, etc);

●      Some kind of protein source (jerky, nuts, or Greek yogurt).

This will help you refresh mentally and energize you throughout the day. This is key if you’re working on an important KM project and are juggling the needs of multiple stakeholders. A healthy, hydrated diet will supercharge your mental focus, give you the motivation to exercise, and help you feel like you can take on the world.

Conclusion

Understanding the mind-body connection can improve your mental focus and help you stay energized throughout the day. Simple changes, like walking when on a break, can help you hit the “reset” button and return to work feeling sharp. This is key when working in KM, as you’ll need your full faculties to break down data sets, liaise with stakeholders, and make well-informed decisions.

 


Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Northwest US area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. She has been following Knowledge Management for several years and it's one of her favorite topics to explore.  Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts.

If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn or check out her portfolio.

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