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Why Healthy Managers Make Better Leaders

Want to be a successful leader? Get moving!  Improve your chances of becoming a millionaire (who doesn’t want that?) because as it turns out, there’s a direct correlation between physical fitness and professional success.  These findings apply to both executives and other employees across the workforce.

In fact, studies[1] have shown that healthy people miss fewer days and tend to be more productive and motivated; and therefore make more money.  The most successful people harness the power of fitness to propel them to the top of their professional game. For example, former President Barack Obama worked out 45 minutes a day, six days a week and played pickup basketball.

According to research by the Center for Creative Leadership, being physically fit has become an unwritten position requirement and not just for a leader’s own health or vanity. Executives and leaders who are visibly out of shape are perceived as both less effective performers and lacking in interpersonal relationships.

In Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Body, someone asked Virgin executive Richard Branson how to be more productive. His answer was, “Work out.” Branson said it gave him four extra hours of productivity a day. Branson, who is 64, competed in the Virgin London Marathon and said afterwards that it was one of the most satisfying days of his life.

According to Fortune, Forbes, Fitness Magazine, and other reputable sources, regular exercise enhances your mental acuity by boosting your memory; which then makes you more alert. It also helps your brain to produce more endorphins, resulting in reduced stress and anxiety. Additionally, mind-body classes like Yoga and Pilates can be a source of relaxation. Reduced stress also leads to improved interpersonal relationships.

Fitness also helps you become more resilient. Athletes know how to how push past stressors, a trait that also serves you well at the office. A review published in the Journal of Sports Sciences found that the psychological benefits of exercise—positivity, motivation, confidence, focus—helps them overcome stressors to reach their goals.

More and more agencies and private companies are offering health and wellness incentives to promote fitness. Notably the Federal government’s most prestigious executive training program, Leadership for a Democratic Society at the Federal Executive Institute (FEI) has incorporated a wellness track. All participants complete a comprehensive health risk appraisal to include a blood lipid profile, a fitness assessment, and nutritional counseling. Executives are provided with the opportunity to take fitness classes in the mornings before breakfast and during the midday break. They can also go during the open hours when the fitness facility is available for individual exercise. In addition, smaller breakout sessions and seminars focusing on specific health and wellness topics are offered during the program.

Focusing on fitness can also help you achieve your personal and professional goals. “In fitness, much like in business, there are pushes for personal achievement that often make you goal-oriented,” explains Duncan Simpson, Ph.D., a Florida-based sports psychologist. “There’s also a quest to push yourself to the limit—you come to understand what’s possible and what isn’t.”[2]

If you aren’t sure where to begin, it is best to start small. Schedule a workout session with a friend or lace up those tennis shoes at lunch and go for a walk. Even a small amount of exercise can help boost your brainpower and help pull you out of an afternoon slump. As a leader the more energy you have, the more prepared you are to handle what the day has in store for you.

Overall focusing on fitness leads to improved health, lowered blood pressure, and reduced stress. Fitness is an invaluable tool that a good leader should leverage to maintain mental and physical wellness towards career success.

This article was written by Rebecca Rose.

[1] Journal of Sports Medicine Study

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