Everyone knows, yes we ALL do, that regular exercise protects your health by making it easier to maintain healthy weight and body movement and function. Research shows that physical activity stimulates the release of hormones to kick-start your energy levels, boost your mood, promotes a calm, focused state of mind that can help you do your best work because your stress is reduced.
As a former personal fitness trainer, getting clients out of their cosy bed at 4:30am was hard work in itself, but morning exercise has the added benefit of exposure to early morning light. This can help you feel more alert during the day, which allows you to focus on tasks, as well as improve the quality of your sleep at night.
How does this help the small business owner and entrepreneur? All of these things can add up to increased productivity at work.
Take super-entrepreneur Richard Branson. He has started over 400 companies and is known to have regular physical activity: running, lifting, or yoga.
World leaders including former US President Barack Obama had a 45 minute workout before assuming his duties. The Former Prime Minister of Australia and Rhodes Scholar, Tony Abbott, was seen as often donning his cycling lyrcas or swimming “budgies” as his suit.
The Rhodes Scholar program at Oxford’s University takes the athletic accomplishments of their candidates as seriously as they take the academic ones. Little wonder they are renown the world over as some of the most successful, accomplished and organized people in the world.
In short, working hard and working out, work together.
Here’s 5 reasons to ramp up the effort on your fitness.
1. Bolster your brain and bust bad habits.
You worked hard all day and pushed past dinner. All you want to do is flick through Netflix and “like” a few foodie posts on Facebook. If you’re like me, when you get tired you get easily distracted.
One unsung benefit about exercise is that it puts your mind in contact with your body. When you are exercising you become aware of what is consuming your thoughts. If you’re trying to count out 20 pistol squats on alternating legs but keep thinking about that throw-away comment the sales rep made about “sticking to your budget” you realise that you really shouldn’t sweat the small stuff.
You also become aware of what your habits are doing to your body. When you are trying to smash out 10 plyometric pull-ups, you quickly become aware of that extra donut you ate between back-to-back meetings with clients.
Exercise gives you a one-on-one conversation with yourself. It allows you to recollect your thoughts and restore a sense of direction instead of letting you indulge yourself in bad or destructive habits.
That release of endorphins after just 5mins of exercise minimises discomfort and promotes feelings of well-being. In the long run exercise can make you more resilient and better able to create better habits moving forward.
2. Build confidence to achieve and lead.
Because exercise decrease stress, you become calmer and more focused. This teaches you to realise not only your limits, but how you can push and excel beyond the limitations that you may have unknowingly set for yourself.
If you cannot perform one chin-up, learning the progressions and building the strength to do one and finally achieving it will build your confidence to go for 2 reps, 3 reps and beyond.
But it doesn’t stop there, having learned how to perform the exercise you will be able to pass on your struggles and experience to teach others to literally get over the bar.
Overcoming what you once thought was impossible and going from “I can’t” to “I can and I will” to “I can teach and lead someone else” is an unbelievable change of perspective.
3. Sharpen competitiveness.
Many large organisations and the more innovative SMEs have onsite exercise facilities. Companies like Google, SAS Institute, Apple even PepsiCo and Deloitte have realised that making facilities easily accessible eliminates an excuse and encourages staff to exercise.
Why? Work is stressful, which can affect your thinking which, in turn, can affect other people in the office. In the long run office morale can be affect and your career will suffer. Exercise makes the employee sharper and more competitive, this in turn makes the company sharper and literally gives you a competitive edge.
Shaking up your day with a stress relieving run or boxercise class keeps you focused in the fight to work harder and smarter. Punching something or someone (fully padded up of course) lowers stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, helping you feel calmer and more relaxed
Neuroscientists have found that physical activity stimulates the growth of neurons and also fights inflammation in the brain. This could be a reason why Harvard Health experts have found areas in the brain related to thinking and memory larger in people who exercise regularly compared to those who don’t.
4. Strengthen schedule and goal setting.
As a small business owner you’re already setting schedules and goals. Working out and setting progression exercises over 6 months for your health is a great reason to improve that habit.
“Discipline” has bad connotations in today’s “do-as-you-feel” society, but being disciplined in your workouts will carry into the office. The patience developed when you see out an exercise plan and the self-determination to set checkpoints to measure your fitness and strength when you are frustrated or hit a workout plateau will translate to those tasks and projects that require true grit.
5. Work harder by working smarter.
Staying longer than eight hours at the office can diminish your performance returns. Having a regular exercise commitment outside of work, scheduled team sport or spontaneous basketball pick-up game can help you make the most of your work time.
Being aware that you have to leave at a pre-determined time can promote more efficient use of office time.When you know “quitting time” is quitting time, you will work harder by working smarter.
You might think that hitting a quick work out would further sap your already depleted energy. But research shows exercise has a multi-pronged effect. 20 minutes of low-to-moderate intensity exercise performed three times a week can increase your energy levels by 20 percent and decrease fatigue by 65 percent.
Some of my best and most innovative conversations have come from workouts and team sports with co-workers. Being in a relaxed, co-operative and physically (non-office politics) competitive environment has even help solve a few IT problems!
As a small business owner or start-up entrepreneur, getting a sexy summer six-pack probably not at the top of your must-do list. This advice is about giving your body the attention it deserves to ensure it is working at its optimal to aid the mental and emotional demands of your hectic workload.
You need to build a strong body to sustain a strong business.
The politicians and businessmen I mentioned in the opening paragraphs are real people and with Wikipedia entries to prove it! They have created patterns in their life to bring about professional success and physical well-being.
My favourite serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk in his blog wrote “[I] hacked away at what made me tick till I discovered, within myself, what would force me to get healthy… Starting now could mean 20 extra years of doing what you love. Isn’t that reason enough? Definitely was for me.”
by TuiSiong Hie
Digital Media Strategist & Founder at Cross+word
About the author