Fitness For Duty: Exercise Can Make You A Better Leader

Apr 23 2014, 5:00pm CDT | by

Okay. Even with a few late snows, spring is officially here. Birds are chirping. Trees and flowers are blossoming, The weather’s warming up. We’re running out of excuses for not beginning some sort of regimen to trim off those extra pounds we gained over the holidays.

Is getting into shape really something we must dread? Is it an exercise (pun intended) in futility?

Shay de Silva says no. She’s a certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist who understands the real world effects of endless meetings, jet lag, travel food, and all the rest that produces fatigue and bulge.

In my 40 years of work with leaders in multiple industries, I’ve noticed that most of the best ones tend to maintain good physical fitness. It’s certainly not that they have more time than other people. They just seem to make fitness a priority. Then they reap the benefits.

Here’s what Shay de Silva has to say about the linkages between fitness and effectiveness. (Learn more at Fast Fitness to Go.)

Rodger Dean Duncan: Why should leaders take time out of their already busy schedule to exercise?

Shay de Silva: Adding exercise to an already packed day might seem out of the question. However, setting aside just 20 to 30 minutes a few days each week can produce major payoffs. According to a recent article in Psychology Today, physical activity is the best way to improve cognitive function. Given that the majority of the workday requires problem solving, decision making, and focus, leaders who make exercise a priority definitely have a leg up over those who don’t.

Duncan: What types of exercise can someone do to get the most out of a quick workout?

de Silva: Fortunately, exercise doesn’t need to take hours out of your day. People often tell me they simply don’t have time to work out. When we dig deeper, I learn that it takes them 30 minutes to get to the gym, they feel like they need to work out for at least an hour, and then they need to drive another 30 minutes home. No wonder they don’t have time! I would agree that two hours is too much for most people to commit to on a regular basis. So let’s make it easy.

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise and two strength training sessions per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise and two strength training sessions per week. High-intensity interval training is a great way to get your strength sessions and aerobic exercise at the same time. This takes just three or four 25-minute workouts each week. I love this type of workout because it can be adjusted to any level of fitness, doesn’t take much time, and can be done anywhere. Even better, according to a Canadian study, “after four months of high-intensity interval training, heart patients had markedly improved cognitive functions: the ability to think, recall, and make quick decisions.”

Try this:

  1. 30 seconds jumping jacks (beginners march in place)
  2. 30 seconds push-ups (beginners do push-ups on knees or against a wall)
  3. 30 seconds squats (beginners don’t bend knees as much)
  4. 30 seconds bicycle crunches
  5. 30 seconds jogging in place (beginners march in place)
  6. 30 seconds arm raises (reach your arms up so they form a V over your head and then pull your elbows in towards the side of your body)
  7. 30 seconds one-leg deadlifts (stand on one leg and reach towards the floor as your lifted leg extends behind you until you feel a stretch in the back of your standing leg, then stand back up; beginners keep both feet on the floor)
  8. 30 seconds plank (beginners can put one knee on the ground or do this against a wall or chair) Click here for a video demonstration.
  9. 1 minute rest

**Repeat sequence five times.

Duncan: How can exercise give you a competitive advantage?

de Silva: You may think you don’t need exercise for an added edge, but research by the Center for Creative Leadership determined that overweight leaders are often viewed as having less effective interpersonal relationships, poorer leadership capabilities, and lower overall job performance. While these stereotypes may not be valid, having a slimmer physique can improve others’ perceptions of you as a leader.

Duncan: Can working out help you earn more money?

de Silva: The evidence seems to indicate that earning power is indeed associated with physical fitness. A study published in the June 2012 issue of the Journal of Labor and Research showed that people who exercise regularly earn about 9% more than those who don’t.

Duncan: If you really hate working out, how can you get in the habit of doing it regularly?

de Silva: Commit to finding something you enjoy. Try one new activity each week until you find a winner. Here are just a few ideas: walking, lifting weights, dancing, tennis, kayaking, a new class at the gym, hiking, and biking. Print out a calendar and mark the days you exercise. Write down what you did and how you felt afterwards. Having a visual reminder of your accomplishments will make you more likely to keep up with your routine./>/>

Duncan: How can I motivate myself to work out when I have a million other things to do?

de Silva: Start by taking a minute to think about what working out will do for you. Focus on the extra energy you’ll have, the good mood, the lower cholesterol, the increased productivity, and looking great. Tell yourself that you’re just going to start with five minutes of movement. You can dance, do a few push-ups, or go for a walk. Just do something. Once you get started, it’s usually pretty easy to keep going and get in a full workout. If not, at least you did a few minutes, which is always better than nothing.

Rodger Dean Duncan is the bestselling author of CHANGE-friendly LEADERSHIP: How to Transform Good Intentions into Great Performance . Follow him on Twitter @DoctorDuncan

 
 
 

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