Something that many of us neglect as entrepreneurs is our own health and fitness. If we want to become successful as an entrepreneur then being fit can have a significant influence on how successful we will become. We all know that we need to do regular exercise and eat healthy food and yet the majority of us don’t. According to a study by the CDC in the United States, 80% of adults do not do the recommended amount of exercise for a healthy life. For many entrepreneurs and business owners they often neglect important parts of their life including doing enough exercise along with neglecting areas such as family and friends. Exercise is easy to do but unfortunately as Jim Rohn said ‘What is easy to do is easy not to do’.
On The Entrepreneur Way podcast one of the questions that I ask guests is ‘how do you relax when you are not working in your business?’ When asked this question more often than not it elicits a chuckle or a laugh from the guest and then some comment about having to work long hours. There is probably some truth in them jesting about how many hours they work but there is also probably some truth in what they say about the lack of commitment they give to other key areas of their life such as their own health and fitness.
Many of the most successful entrepreneurs have found a way of including exercise in their daily routines. For example Richard Branson, the founder of the virgin media group runs, lift weights, does yoga, swims and kite surfs; Mark Cuban, the American entrepreneur and investor does one hour of intense cardio six times a week; Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook works out five times a week; Bill Gates the founder of Microsoft spends an hour in the morning on the treadmill doing cardio exercise. Many big companies such as Google, Apple and Rolls-Royce understand the importance of exercise for their employees and have provided them with access to free on site gyms.
For many of us, especially for entrepreneurs life happens and often our available daily bandwidth is used up seemingly leaving no time for the gym. We live in a world of instant gratification and hacks where many of us are always looking for the easy button with fast food, instant information and constant demands on our time with social media, family, friends, business and life. As a consequence we often end up skipping exercise for work or for play or for life.
In business the drive for success results in us thinking that ‘everything will be alright when…’ We are driven by money, the buzz of success and not wanting to fail. We feel that everyone depends on us, the staff that we employ, our customers and our families.
When we work long hours this may be an indication that everything is not as good as we would like it to be. Maybe the culture in the business is not as it should be, maybe we are not delegating responsibility for enough things to other people, maybe we don’t have proper systems in our business. When we are working long hours the chances are we are working in our business more than on our business. Maybe it is the case that not only do we have to improve our commitment to our own health but also our business’s health may have room for improvement. And in our life outside of business it may also be the case that we are not scheduling enough time for our family and other people that we care about.
In Darren Hardy’s book The Compound Effect he talks about how small things can make an increasing difference in our life as they compound over time. This can work in a positive way in our life or a negative way in our life.
On the negative side of things a lifestyle with insufficient exercise will create a gradual decline in our health which will be noticeable over a long period of time of say five or more years. We may not notice skipping exercise today but continuing to skip exercise for extended periods of time will have an effect. The cumulative effect of the compounded lack of exercise will eventually result in a lower quality of life with an increased probability of becoming ill, health problems later in life, and probably a shorter life. Eventually on a day-to-day basis poor health and fitness can result in lower energy, lower creativity, lower self-image, being more stressed and more.
The positive side of the compound effect is when we exercise regularly it results in a multitude of benefits. Physically we gradually improve and have a better quality of life and a longer life. Our brain benefits in many ways when we exercise with increased production of endorphins, we start to feel immediately better and get a natural high we have a calmer mind-set, we have a better mood and feel good and happier. A study by the University of Georgia found that energy levels were also improved allowing us to work indefatigably. We become less stressed; more focused with clear peace of mind and increased self-esteem. Another study by the Institute of cardiology in Montréal found that exercise makes us become smarter improving our ability to solve problems and think of more and better ideas.
In essence it is more likely that we will become more successful if we have good health and fitness. A study by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found that regular exercise makes us more productive. In another study by a couple of economists from the University of Jyväskylä, in Finland, concludes that being physically active has a positive impact on long-term income of 14 to 17 percent because physical fitness seems to “make people more persistent in the face of work-related difficulties, and increase their desire to engage in competitive situations.”
In an interview with Tim Ferris in The Four Hour Body Richard Branson revealed that regular exercise allowed him to be more productive and to work longer. Exercise also gives us the confidence to deal with difficult tasks. Often we approach different tasks with different levels of confidence in overcoming fear. The difference of our confidence is due to chemical changes in our brains. Exercise causes the release of endorphins which make us happier and reduce stress resulting in increases in confidence and reduced fear. Increased confidence can also help to build our network both at the gym but also in other networking opportunities.
Often we resist the change of our daily habits to slot a regular exercise routine in to it. We find excuses and justify why we can’t do it, we find reasons to skip sessions. You may be thinking right now ‘but I don’t have the time you don’t understand my situation in my business’ but as I said earlier if we are thinking like this then it might be the case that we could make changes not only to our exercise routine but to other aspects of our life including our business to remove this limiting mind-set.
In order to get the full benefit of exercise it needs to be regular and consistent which means it needs to become habit. Our existing lifestyle is a series of habits and it took many years to develop them. To change our behaviour and exercise regularly takes a lot of willpower and takes a lot of time until eventually we accept exercise as part of our ongoing daily routines in life. To make exercise a habit we have to make it a high priority and do it regardless. It is a good idea to do something that we enjoy doing and possibly do it with other people who will expect us to show up, but who will also be there to encourage us and make the exercise more enjoyable.
Making time for exercise may seem difficult right now and if it does it is probably an indication that our priorities in life need to be reassessed in terms of family time, exercise time, business and time for ourselves. All of these things should be scheduled in our diary. Making a slot in our diary for exercise may mean giving up bad habits to make way for a good habit to allow us to schedule our exercise. Maybe we will have to work smarter not harder and relinquish some responsibility to our staff or outsource to somebody else. Ultimately it’s about what are we are prepared to quit to become healthier. By giving up something we make space for exercise and a healthier life. Another way of looking at it is that we are quitting being unhealthy and the problems related with it to get a better lifestyle with its benefits. Eventually we will find that whilst exercise takes time out of our day we will be able to get more done in the remaining time due to our increased productivity. And obviously in the long run we will have a longer and healthier life.
One of the great things about being an entrepreneur or a business owner is that we can work out when we want to. But ultimately the rewards of exercise come after the hard work and not before, but unlike most business opportunities the results of exercising regularly are guaranteed with almost instant noticeable short term benefits as well as long-term benefits. According to the centres for disease control and prevention in the United States we should be doing about a hundred and 50 minutes a week of exercise which breaks down into about 5×30 minutes a week.
One of the other things that we can do when we exercise is to learn at the same time. We can listen to audio from our phone or MP3 player/iPod when we are at the gym or while we are jogging or riding a bike, et cetera. Bill Gates is does cardio exercise in the mornings while watching videos that he can learn from. We can listen to podcasts such as The Entrepreneur Way podcast or we can listen to audiobooks on becoming a better entrepreneur. You will find some ideas of what a survey of successful entrepreneurs read by clicking The Top 50 Books for Entrepreneurs.
We can also exercise while we work and reduce the amount of time we spend sat in a chair. We can have meetings stood up which has been found to make meetings last for less time so they are more productive and we burn more calories at the same time. Some people have walking meetings which can be more productive with fewer interruptions and distractions from other people and increase our calorie burn even further. Steve jobs would often have walking meetings and apparently Mark Zuckerberg is also keen on them. A study by the American psychological Association also found that walking can lead to increased thinking. It is also possible to buy desks that require us to stand up which will increase our calorie burn compared to being sat down all of the time. And if we want to up the ante a little bit more we could buy a treadmill desk which allows us to stand up and walk whilst working on our PC at the same time answering emails et cetera which has the added benefit of burning even more calories – you can literally walk miles a day while working!
Along my entrepreneurial journey I have always found time to exercise 3 to 5 times a week. In fact I can remember at around the age of 20 committing to being in shape when I was middle-aged which I have stuck to. Even when I worked long hours I always found a way to do my exercise at least three times a week.
Doing exercise also allows us some time out for thinking and reflecting and often it is during these periods that we can be the most creative and have some of our best ideas. Life becomes more enjoyable so we are able to enjoy our success more along the journey and at the same time have a longer life. We can become more effective in everything that we do and in all areas of life such as family, business, friends and time out for ourselves.
If you have any thoughts or comments about this article please add a comment below…