In the October 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review, author Ron Friedman asserts that exercise not only enhances our performance in the workplace, but indeed, exercise is actually a part of our job. He states, “Instead of viewing exercise as something we do for ourselves—a personal indulgence that takes us away from our work—it’s time we started considering physical activity as part of the work itself. The alternative, which involves processing information more slowly, forgetting more often, and getting easily frustrated, makes us less effective at our jobs and harder to get along with for our colleagues.”
Indeed, a mounting body of research supports the notion that exercise has profound benefits in the workplace ranging from improved cognitive function, enhanced mood, improved leadership perception, reduced fatigue, and even improved work-life balance. To this end, Russel Clayton of St Louis University, writing in the January 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review, states, “Perhaps more than anything, employers can help by getting the word out that exercise isn’t a selfish indulgence that inevitably requires some sacrifice on either the work or home front. What we found was overwhelming support for a positive relationship between regular exercise and satisfying management of the work-home interface. It isn’t only that exercise supports better physical health. Through its direct impact on increased self-efficacy and reduced psychological strain, exercise leads to better integration of professional and personal lives.”
In a column appearing in Entrepreneur, author and entrepreneur Josh Steimle takes this notion a step further stating that exercise is a higher priority than his business. “I schedule my workouts during the workday and prioritize exercise over all my work activities. There is some flexibility, but if there is a conflict between a trail run I need to get in, and a meeting with a client, I’ll reschedule the client meeting first. I do this because I and my business can survive the consequences of rescheduling a client meeting, even if it means losing that client. But as soon as I start pushing workouts off, I’ll start missing workouts, and once I start missing workouts, I’m close to stopping workouts altogether. Exercise must come first, or it’s unlikely to happen at all. If exercise stops, then my health goes downhill. With the loss of physical health my productivity at work goes down. I become depressed. I lose motivation to do the things that makes my business successful. I’ve learned firsthand that excellence in one area of my life promotes excellence in all other areas of my life. Exercise is the easiest area of my life to control.”
Take home message:
To be a better leader, manager, employee, or performer: Plan and schedule your exercise as if it were central to your performance and success. Because it is. And the good news is, very little exercise goes a long way in achieving these benefits.