The Best Way to Power Through Your Afternoon Slump

And no, you shouldn't down a double espresso.

Every corporate grunt knows the feeling. At 3pm, like a marathoner who's just turned the corner at mile 20, you hit a wall. Yes, the dreaded afternoon slump, when you're sleepy, you're agitated, and you start staring at the clock like a kid stuck in detention. To fight back, you do what everyone else does: you reach for another cup of Joe.

Well, it turns out you probably shouldn't. Instead, you should probably pay a visit to your office stairwell.

Researchers from the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Georgia found that walking up and down stairs for ten minutes, or about 30 stories total, offers the same energy boost as 50mg of caffeine—roughly 4oz. of coffee. But get this: the mini-workout has a much stronger effect on your ability to get back to work than any Venti from Starbucks.

Authors Patrick O'Connor and Derek Randolph published their findings in Physiology & Behavior. Participants were sleep-deprived—that's getting less than six-and-a-half hours of sleep per night—female college students. To gauge effectiveness, O'Connor and Randolph had participants, on separate days, consume either caffeine pills or a placebo, or walk up and down some stairs.

At the end of each day of the study, the authors administered computer-based exams—to gauge both emotion and cognitive performance. The caffeine and the placebo had no effect. But stair walking turned out to increase motivation to get work done and power through that afternoon slump.

Do you have to climb stairs to give yourself an energy boost? Of course not. The study says 10 minutes of any mild exercise will do the trick. But the authors chose walking up and down stairs because most office workers, of course, have them at the ready, and because they're aware that many workers find going to the gym increasingly difficult.

Plus, as O'Connor puts it: "It has never rained on me while walking the stairs." So next time you're considering the elevator, don't.

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Ari Notis
Ari is an editor specializing in news and lifestyle. Read more
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