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Bad Day at Work? Exercise Can Help You from Bringing It Home!

by Matt Weik

We’ve all had those days where our boss is on us about everything. You couldn’t do anything right in their eyes. You leave the office frustrated and angry that you got beat down and abused all day long and for what seemed like no reason. The entire drive home you can’t stop thinking about how terrible your day was. You walk in your house and all of those emotions follow you through the threshold. Now all of a sudden, your bad day is taken out on your spouse and kids—and they didn’t do anything to deserve it. Let’s just say this isn’t a regular occurrence and you generally don’t have bad days at work, your family might look past it as you just had a bad day. But when those days turn into weeks and months, you have a problem on your hands. Now your work is affecting your home life. That’s not a good situation to be in.

You can’t seem to find a happy medium between work and home life now. It seems like they are now both one in the same. There’s no separation. You need to figure out a way to close your office door and leave all of those emotions at the office or find a way to channel those emotions before you walk into your house to greet your family. Your kids don’t know what it’s like to have a job. They don’t understand the stress and responsibility that comes along with it. So, it isn’t fair to take things out on them. They are just there to give you a hug the second you walk in the door and greet you with a hello and smiling faces. You need to find a way to separate yourself from the frustrations of work—and exercise might just be the key according to some new research findings.

Research to the rescue!

The University of Central Florida (UCF) conducted a study using 118 students from campus. They wanted to look at the students sleep patterns and their physical activity. Each of the students were working full-time jobs on top of going to college. The study itself was very short-term where each of the students was asked to complete a survey, and then they were to wear an activity monitor for the course of one week. At the end of the week, a survey was sent to the people living with the study participants.

The study found that when the students who worked full-time jobs walked an average of 10,900 steps or more each day, they weren’t as likely to go home and show their frustration. Those individuals who walked less than 7,000 steps showed a higher likelihood of going home and taking their frustration out on those inside the home. The researchers noted that the sweet spot to lessen the aggression and frustration seemed to be where the individuals were able to burn off an additional 587 calories before going home. They mentioned that this can easily be accomplished by a 90-minute brisk walk or swimming in a pool for 60-minutes.

Not many people have the ability to exercise after work as they are needed to be home with their family to help take care of the kids. For that reason, an individual can find time to exercise either before work even starts, or over their lunch period. Some employers even allow their staff to take an extra-long lunch if it is to be used to exercise. In addition, some employers even pay for their employees to go to the gym either by paying them for their lunch break or by paying for their gym memberships. Many large businesses even have a small facility on-site where employees can go exercise. These on-site facilities generally have things such as dumbbells, benches, smith machines, and cardio equipment like treadmills, bikes, ellipticals, and steppers. These programs are more focused on keeping their employees healthy and productive, but now thanks to this study, it appears it can help these individuals cope with the stress and frustration that can take place over the course of a workday.

One of the researchers said, “Research shows employees who are mistreated at work are likely to engage in similar behaviors at home. If they’ve been belittled or insulted by a supervisor, they tend to vent their frustration on members of their household. Our study shows that happens because they’re too tired to regulate their behavior. The findings are particularly compelling given recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association to walk between 8,000 and 10,000 steps per day. I also think the study gives us a new perspective on the importance of getting an adequate amount of sleep and exercise. It’s not just good for you, it’s good for your spouse, too.”

We all know that lack of sleep is another factor in relieving stress as well as mentally and physically recovering from the previous day. When someone doesn’t get enough rest, the stress from the previous day can carry over into the new day which can cause even further conflicts in the workplace and consequently at home as well. Therefore, combining both a good night’s sleep with daily exercise, you are able to mitigate some of the friction that you felt during the previous day. You can wake up more refreshed and willing to tackle the day ahead.

It seems like the combination of exercise and proper sleep patterns can help many different issues that one may face on a day to day basis. If you aren’t currently finding the time to exercise regularly and sleep a minimum of seven hours, you need to sit down and re-prioritize some things to figure out how you can establish both in your daily routine. Not only will your mind and body thank you, but so will the people that are around you.


Larissa K. Barber, Shannon G. Taylor, James P. Burton, Sarah F. Bailey. A Self-Regulatory Perspective of Work-to-Home Undermining Spillover/Crossover: Examining the Roles of Sleep and Exercise.. Journal of Applied Psychology, 2017; DOI: 10.1037/apl0000196

University of Central Florida. “Exercise, sleep are key to keeping employees from bringing home work frustrations, study shows.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 February 2017. .

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