Not consistently exercising isn't just affecting your health -- it's also affecting your business and relationships.
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As an executive health and performance coach, I’m frequently exposed to the glamours of being an entrepreneur. However, I’m also exposed to the not-so-glamorous aspects of being an entrepreneur.
I see entrepreneurs who have put on a significant amount of weight, have high levels of stress that are unmanaged, feel chronically fatigued, and most importantly, are living a lifestyle that is putting a strain on their families.
With hectic schedules, extensive traveling and long hours, it’s easy to lose track of your healthy habits.
Nevertheless, maintaining healthy habits is a must as an entrepreneur. How can you expect to take care of clients, customers and your staff when your own needs aren’t being met? Making yourself a priority will allow you to maximize your energy and increase your ability to care for others.
As an entrepreneur, exercising multiple times a week is a necessity because you have to be mentally sharp and operate with an unwavering focus each and every day. Your purpose is to make your brain as resilient as it can be and remove as much stress as possible so you’re not distracted in the boardroom or when it’s family time.
With that said, here are four reasons why exercising is an entrepreneur's greatest competitive advantage.
1. Operate with elite-level memory.
Think of your memory as your brain's filing system. Everything you learn is stored here. As an entrepreneur, you have a plethora of important aspects of the job that requires a good memory. One overlooked, but critically important area, is networking. Remembering those small and obscure details from the contacts you meet is going to create more favorable impressions and opportunities.
To improve your memory, marathon sessions at the gym isn’t necessary. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, scientists found that after six weeks of short bouts of interval training over the course of 20 minutes, improvements were made to the participant's memory. This is largely due to exercise helping support Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth, functioning and survival of your brain cells.
2. Develop laser-like focus and attention.
Love him or hate him, one of the reasons former President Bill Clinton was so revered was due to his ability to give people his undivided attention. Being able to fully pay attention may sound easy, but few entrepreneurs are able to do this.
In fact, a 2010 Harvard study found that we spend 47 percent of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing. Being able to give your undivided attention to a person or a specific task will separate you from the competition. A big part of success is as simple as sitting down, concentrating and getting some real work done.
When it comes to attention spans and exercising, a study published in the journal PLoS ONE, which was carried out by researchers from the University of Granada, found that those who do physical activities such as running or playing sports, can improve the functioning of their central nervous system (CNS) and autonomic nervous system (ANS).
This leads to higher levels of time perception, sustained attention and many other cognitive abilities.
3. Boost your creativity and problem-solving skills.
How can Aristotle, Sigmund Freud, Harry Truman, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche and Ludwig Van Beethoven make you a better entrepreneur?
Simple, they are great examples of people who took advantage of exercising. A body in motion stands a much better chance of finding inspiration and catapulting through previous chokeholds.
As an entrepreneur, solving problems and getting your vision to come to fruition is a major aspect of the job. With that said, you’re going to need your brain to be at its best.
In this 2014 study at Stanford, scientists found that when people are walking, their creative output increased by an average of 60 percent. For even greater benefits, if you happen to be near nature, taking a stroll through nature leads to even more mental benefits.
4. Exude executive presence.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book Executive Presence consists of three aspects: gravitas, communication and appearance. Gravitas helps you project confidence. Communication is about effectively delivering your message. And appearance, which contrary to opinion isn’t about being the most toned, but instead is about presenting the best version of yourself.
How does exercise relate to these three? In a multitude of ways.
Exercise plays a pivotal role in managing your levels of anxiety, along with your perception of yourself. Speaking of the latter, a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that the simple act of exercise, and not fitness itself, can convince you that you look better. Putting these things together, you’re going to see an entrepreneur who is more confident, cool under pressure, decisive, emotionally intelligent, charismatic and more effective at articulating their vision.
Making exercise a non-negotiable isn’t merely setting you up for success in the boardroom and to operate with an edge over the competition, it’s also setting you up to be around to enjoy the fruits of your labor with those who are most important to you.