Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What Happened When I Replaced Coffee With 30 Seconds of Exercise


A few pushups can give you the same mental boost as a cup of joe. So next time you need a jolt at the office, considering skipping the Keurig machine and dropping to the ground instead.

I've found that 30 seconds of high-intensity body-weight exercise gives me the same mental boost as a shot of caffeine. After validating the results of my newfound productivity hack on a Stanford-designed test of cognitive performance, these short breaks have become a staple of my workday.

Here's how it works, how I measured it, and some scientific theory to back up the findings. 

How It Works 

Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I find a quiet corner and perform some form of body-weight exercise that jolts my heart up to at last 70 percent of the maximal beats per minute (for me, that's about 170). My favorite exercises are 20 burpees (a push-up to jumping jack) or 40 mountain climbers (push-up position, bringing knees to elbows).

Thirty seconds is a rough time frame; I actually go until I'm physically exhausted and feel my heart pounding through my chest. That's it.

How It's Measured 

With the rise of scientific self-experimentation (a.k.a the "quantified self movement"), academics have designed measurement tools for committed amateurs. I compared my cognitive performance on caffeine and after exercise with, a website of reaction time and memory tests, which have been validated by decades of psychological research.  

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