I work with managers all over the world and see how they struggle to maintain a healthy body and mind. They constantly fight with jet-lag, do not eat healthy or get enough sleep, and spend 90% of their working hours sitting. Many have health problems by the time they are in their mid-thirties, such as obesity, headache and severe back pain, thus increasing their risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
I believe that we still do not fully understand the strong connection between movement and our productivity, energy and mental health. Research shows that physical activity affects our brain and emotional balance, and makes us more effective as leaders (see research from the center of creative leadership).
I know many companies have not yet made physical activity a priority. Some managers even brag about being fatigued and stressed. They do not know how to integrate movement into their busy lives and find the right type of exercise to give them more energy instead of another stress-adding factor. I was impressed when I heard a CEO speaking during a fire side chat with aspiring leaders about how he makes fitness a priority in his daily routine. He certainly has no more time than other people, yet makes it a non-negotiable part of his daily schedule. Lack of time is no excuse. We could spend less time checking the news or social media on phones, or watching endless hours of Netflix.
We all know the benefits in theory (see research from Psychology Today), but how do we keep up the motivation from our New Year’s resolutions to become more productive and balanced leaders?
Here are three tips to get started:
1. First, I would start by asking myself: with which tasks and demands am I confronted everyday? Am I already in a very competitive, faced-paced environment? If so, it would be better to find physical activity that does not release even more stress hormones like cortisol. How many managers do you see regularly on the treadmill with red faces and sweat bursts? Instead, choose activities that balance your nervous system, decrease stress and reduce inflammation; like taking a walk, hiking or yoga (see scientific benefits of yoga.)
2. Try something new. Find an activity that gives you joy and energy, or which challenges you to develop news skills, like dancing, climbing, capoeira, golf, juggling, curling, running, etc. (here you find more inspiration). Sign up for local or corporate sports events like J.P. Morgan to motivate yourself to keep up with your goals and share the experience with others.
3. If you travel extensively, invest in a personal trainer who can setup an individualized training program that you can perform even in your hotel room. Additionally, on YouTube or Podcasts you can find many professional and fun workout routines that can be completed in a few as seven minutes.
If you make movement a part of your life, you can increase not just your confidence, energy and productivity, but can also influence your coworkers and contribute to a more healthy and productive workplace, where people are fit, balanced, and better able to face challenges, changes and other stresses at work.