Fitness Rules

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We all know that regular exercise is good for us. We can hear the muffled voice of an adult in the Peanuts comic strip telling us so. Oh yes, there's more. According to a study by the Center for Creative Leadership—garnered from over 10 years of data on executives—those who exercised regularly rated more highly than their non-exercising counterparts in overall leadership effectiveness. Specifically, they led in credibility, energy, resiliency, calmness and the ability to inspire commitment. More physical stats. If we're tall, say 6'2" or more, we're more likely to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company (Malcolm Gladwell, Blink). If our voice is deep and sonorous, we'll earn close to $200,000 more than the average top exec (University of California-San Diego and Duke University). Note: there are some built-in gender biases here but that is the subject for another blog down the road.

Let's take a closer look. What's in our control and what isn't? Clearly our height and the timbre of our voice has more to do with genetics than realizing our potential. But what about movement? Aren't we all physical sentient beings designed to be on the move?

Size doesn't matter as much as you'd think Perception by others: body fat levels had no impact on how leaders were reviewed by bosses, peers and direct reports (CCL executive study). Self perception: people who start exercising are more content with their bodies regardless of whether they lose weight or not (Journal of Health Psychology). Positive perceptions, internal and external, appear to have more to do with the quality of our energy than what we look like.

Staying fit doesn't take as much time as you'd think Multiple mini sessions, even as short as 6 minutes can offer benefits equal to 30 minute sessions (Study in Preventive Medicine). It only takes 10 minutes a day to boost your mood (Northern Arizona University). A mere 20 mins per week of moderate activity such as golfing, gardening, walking or doing chores can counteract psychological distress (Study of 20,000 British subjects). More good news. Once you have gained a solid level of fitness, it only takes one good* strength workout a week to maintain "neuromuscular adaptation" (University of Alabama at Birmingham). We start to lose aerobic capacity after 72 hours. The converse of that is that we only need a proper* aerobic workout about every three days or twice a week (Study of cyclists in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise).

*Good/proper workouts range from 30-60 minutes, depending on what you’re doing. Talk to the regulars at the gym about this. Also, we’re talking “feel good” levels of fitness here, not elite performance.

What this really boils down to is that achieving the leadership benefits of fitness may not be as hard as it looks. 101: Move your body 6-10 mins/day, especially after meals. 201: Get in shape, whatever it takes. Then relax and reap the rewards because routine maintenance only requires three quality workouts a week—one for the muscles and two for the lungs.


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