Why should a CEO dedicate time in their busy schedule to incorporate exercise into their daily routine? A CEO with low energy poses a big problem for a company, as they create a stress environment each day. Creativeness, decision-making and attention suffer as a consequence. Family relationships and social life will be impaired, as they will take longer to complete tasks and will have less energy, than a fit CEO, to use use after work has finished for the day. For CEO’s and leaders to maintain high levels of integrity, think strategically about the future, have clarity when making decisions, be energetic and have the confidence to lead a high performing team, they need to be healthy. This means they need to be attentive to regular exercise, fueling their body with the right food, freeing their mind and recovering with purpose.
“Take care of your body. It’s the one place you have to live” JIM ROHN
In the last two articles we introduced Breaking The CEO Code, the future of leadership performance, and the four basic fundamentals of being a high performing leader. Over the next four weeks we will talk about how the synergy of all four basic fundamentals – exercise, nutrition, mind and recovery – is crucial to being a high performing leader, and not just one or two in isolation. This article takes a deeper look into how exercise, enhances a leaders performance and some valuable tips to make it work for you.
So, how does exercise have a positive effect on the amount of stress we have as a leader?
A common term in literature is the “runners high”, which is the result of exercise stimulating the release of important chemicals, associated with happiness, called dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins. These four chemicals decrease our stress levels, help relieve pain, improve our sleep quality, enhance memory and learning, boost cognitive ability and increase our positive mood state.
“Business comes in all shapes and sizes, much like the CEO’s who run them” UNKNOWN
How often do you hear of CEO’s and leaders who have major health problems or look unhealthy? What message does this send to their employees? There are a number of health benefits as a result of regular exercise. Exercise is known to improve blood pressure, blood sugar levels, heart rate, and heart function, while decreasing the risk of heart disease. It also has a significant effect on decreasing body fat, increasing lean muscle tissue, lowering cholesterol, increasing metabolism and reducing the risk of cancer.
The fitter you are the better the sex life, life improves as a whole and there is evidence that it slows the ageing process. A positive by-product of exercising regularly is that people tend to improve their eating habits, sleep more, and cut out unhealthy habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol as they want to improve their exercise experience.
Completing regular exercise provides a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, liveliness and pleasure, which all have an impact on your self-esteem. As a CEO or leader, the greater your self esteem the higher your confidence in your ability to make decisions, being realistic in your expectations, assertive in expressing your needs and opinions, able to form secure and honest relationships, and have greater resilience in times of stress and setbacks.
“In order to make great decisions, a person needs to think clearly” CRAIG JOHNS
Being a CEO or leader requires you to think quickly, make smart decisions, and understand a wide range of information and topics. Our brain’s are a vital organ of our body and the health of the brain has a major impact on how we perform as a leader. Aerobic exercise not only provides an escape from your day, but also boosts the size of the Hippocampus region of your brain, which is the center for memory and learning. Moving your body, through exercise, improves mental clarity, upgrades your ability to be present and decreases cognitive decline. There are also benefits of increasing your concentration levels, alertness and cognitive function. It’s time to start exercising your brain.
Motion is known to evoke emotion, so it is no surprise that many people note their best ideas come while out exercising. Regular exercise is known to improve people’s ability to solve problems, come up with new ideas, better analyze incoming perspectives and enter a flow state. Our decision-making ability improves due to increased blow flow and oxygen levels to the cells. CEO’s and leaders find that aerobic exercise can feel like a form of “active meditation”, as it provides a time to think alone, get to know yourself and inspire deep solutions.
“The human body predictably follows the input and actions of the brain that is controlling it.” GREG JUSTICE
Exercise supports the development of confidence, discipline, focus, energy and resilience. Being active provides an opportunity to shift your mindset and enables you to power down from the stresses at work, while also creating a disconnect and technology break. Other leadership benefits from regular exercise include enhancing work productivity and quality, and increasing the strength and stamina to complete every day activities. Your mental health can be improved as exercise assists in removing the feelings of pressure, stress, unhappiness, confusion and anger. Exercise may just be the best investment you can make in yourself!
“CEOs have the power to get done anything they seriously want to do. The problem is they don’t even believe they need to.” UNKNOWN
To change the work first mindset and the prevalence of sitting at a desk, exercise in the workplace can be increased through encouraging commuting by walking, cycling or running to work; stopping at a bus stop or parking a car a few blocks away and walking the remaining distance; utilizing lunch breaks for exercise; encouraging the use of the stairs; initiating walking meetings; installing standing desks; creating regular group exercise activities; and utilizing gamification techniques such as providing employees with a FITBIT and doing 10,000 step challenges.
“There is a human energy crisis and what we don’t realize is that there are movement opportunities everywhere” CRAIG JOHNS
Positive habits generally take 6-12 weeks of regular repetition before they become part of our normal routine. Setting SMART goals that are specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time dependent increase the likelihood of being consistent enough to achieve success. Goals provide a destination and consistency creates long-term habits.
A great way to increase the enjoyment, motivation and accountability of exercising regularly is by getting out with a training partner, family member, pets, friends, colleagues, a group of like minded people or hiring a trainer. Exercising with others helps build relationships and achieve goals.
Music can provide the motivation and stimulation to both relax and unwind while exercising or to focus on training harder, faster and longer. If you find it difficult to fit in exercise, then schedule it in your diary or place the workout in a calendar.
“Do you want to live long and die fast or live short and die long?” CRAIG JOHNS
To stay focused and improve the chances of sustaining a regular exercise routine, you may find it valuable to set adventure or endurance type challenges. Adventure type challenges may include completing a long hike like the Abel Tasman walk in New Zealand, or climbing Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia, doing a Spartan race or going on a 7 day surfing trip to Tahiti. Triathlon has become the new golf for CEO’s and leaders and is among a range of endurance type challenges you could set such as completing a 5km run, cycling around Samoa, sea-kayaking around Hawaii, tackling an Ironman or even an open water swim.
There are a range of difference exercise options you can choose from including running, hiking on trails, sweating it out in the gym, participating in a Parkrun event, joining a team sport, playing activities in the back yard with your children, going for a surf, taking Latin dancing lessons, having a game of tennis or doing yoga.
“There comes a certain point in life when you have to stop blaming other people for how you feel or the misfortunes in your life. You can’t go through life obsessing about what might have been.” HUGH JACKMAN
Setting aside just 30-40 minutes of time for exercise, 5 to 6 days each week, will help you complete the minimum weekly requirements as provided by the American College of Sports Medicine.
Variety is the spice of life. Mixing up your type, location, intensity, frequency, training partners and duration of your exercise helps you to stay focused longer, decrease boredom and will more likely to repeat exercise on a regular basis.
So how do you recharge the batteries, refuel the tank, switch off and find time for yourself, so that when you are “on” as a CEO or Leader, you are fully present?
Over the next three weeks we will talk about fueling your body with the right food, free your mind and recover with purpose. Along with exercise daily they make up the four basic fundamentals of the FOUNDATION phase of Breaking The CEO CODE, the future of leadership performance.
In the meantime, please take the time to read the Breaking The CEO Code whitepaper. Click the download button:
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