What is one thing most highly successful executives have in common?

Prioritize

Over-schedule

Rationalize

Execute

Reward

 We all know that exercise makes us feel better, but most of us have no idea why. We assume it’s because we are burning off stress or reducing muscle tension, but the real reason we feel so good when we get our blood pumping is that it makes the brain function at its best.

The ability to process information quickly, to concentrate and focus, and to make quick decisions are all essential traits of the successful executive and can mark the difference between failure and success.

If the future of your business as well as many people’s careers depends upon your decisions, you simply cannot afford the luxury of letting stress and fatigue negatively affect your emotional stability and mental clarity. That’s why keeping your brain healthy and vital should be one of your top priorities.

One of the best things you can do to improve your brain functions is to exercise. Numerous studies [1] [2] [3] [4] have shown a positive correlation between exercise and improved mood, decreased anxiety, increased memory and the ability to concentrate. Physical activity promotes the activation of the pre-frontal cortex (the front part of the brain). It also creates new brain cells and opens up new neurotransmitter pathways, the same neurotransmitters that are targeted with psychiatric drugs, such as serotonin and dopamine.

Why is this important? Because it means that we can get similar benefits of anti-depressant drugs without any adverse side effects. [5] Exercise also makes our brains more “plastic” through the stimulation of new brain cells, which is essential for logging in new information (i.e. learning and thinking clearly). [6] The latter is absolutely essential to be able to function best in a fast changing environment.

Given all the benefits, exercise should be at the top priority of everyone’s daily schedule.  The challenge is how?

Unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world.

“As a personal trainer, I deal with many business people and top executives. One of the biggest challenges I encounter at the beginning of my professional relationship with a client, is to get them to commit to a regular exercise plan. Frequent business trips, long working hours, family time, and tight work deadlines all get in the way, and finding time to exercise plunges soon into the lowest ranks of the list of priorities. I don’t think these are simply excuses not to workout. In fact I genuinely think that people understand well the importance of exercising every day and the risk involved in failing to do so, but they choose to prioritize things that are perceived as more urgent, such as respecting a deadline or attending a business meeting. ” (D. Peretti).

The need to exercise is never perceived as urgent. In the short term this strategy  works, but in the longer term it is a recipe for disaster. A lot of people come to me only after they have already been told by their doctors to exercise more or they recently had a scare that made them commit to working out.

How can you control your mind, change your old habits and incorporate exercise in your daily routine?

Here are our 5 best recommendations to break bad habits and incorporate exercise into your daily routine (based on our experience of observing people who successfully implement exercise into their daily schedule):

Prioritize

Make your exercise a priority and schedule your training. Keep this schedule wherever you go, irrespective of any other obligations.
See this as a necessity for your ideal functioning as an executive and as a vital part of your ability to make sound decisions.
Even if you travel, schedule the exercise time into your agenda with the same priority as all other important meetings.

Over schedule

Over-schedule and allow some room for error. If you want to commit to do jogging or spinning 3x a week (which we deem the minimum to keep your shape and mental balance), schedule it 4-5 times a week to allow for last minute really important changes. In reality, unexpected events  come up quite often, and, even if you prioritize and schedule your training, things might not go as planned.

Rationalize

Be rational and remind yourself of the benefits of exercise based on facts from latest research.
a. It makes your mind more resilient and allows you to handle future challenges with more agility.
b. Best return on invested time.  (Recent studies show that people are 20% more efficient after they exercise than before.)
c. Improves brain functioning, the ability to grasp new information, and out-of-the-box thinking, which are essential skills in today’s business environment.
Remind yourself that many important and powerful people also include fitness into their schedule.  If Barack Obama, Jack Welsh and many others can exercise 5 times a week, you also might be able to afford it, don’t you think?

Execute

You don’t feel like going to the gym or exercising? Feeling too tired?
We have news for you.  95% of people, even top athletes, have this feeling most of the time when they start.  Do you know what helps them to start and go? Points 1-3……Just do it!  After just 10 minutes, you’ll feel it was actually not a bad decision to start….

 

Reward

Reward yourself if you adhere to your plan. Recent research shows that humans can incorporate new habits a lot more easily if they have a reward to look forward to. So, here is the opportunity. Treat yourself and allow something nice after each training.  A cappuccino? A milkshake? A new pair of shoes?  Whatever it is does not matter as long as it is in line with your values and budget.

In reality, finding time to exercise is not really as hard as it seems. All you really need is just 30 minutes a day of exercise min 5 times/week. That is only 150 minutes in a week. If you consider the fact that there is 10,080 minutes in a week, that totals to just 1% of your time. Not that much, really. You might argue that 30 minutes will count just for the workout time, but that doesn’t take into account the time to get to the gym, park the car, get changed, warm-up, have a shower after the workout, etc. All that can take up to two hours, or more, a day. Well, the good news is, that you actually don’t need a gym to exercise and stay in great shape. You can get a whole-body, perfectly effective workout anywhere, at any time, using just your body weight or minimal equipment, such as an elastic band or a suspension trainer.  (We will come back on that in our later blogs.)

You can also split the 30 minutes in shorter bouts of 15 or even 10 minutes each. That might even enhance exercise adherence, as some studies suggests. [7]

“It is always a great reward to me professionally to see how including an exercise regime in their daily routine has such a positive impact on my clients’ lives in terms of health and well-being.” (DP)

“Once you start taking that big step and reap the benefits, you will never look back.” (GK)

By D. Peretti/G. Kindert

Please “like” us if this article was useful to you.

Interested in reading more complimentary information?

Enter your First name and E-mail below and click on Subscribe to receive further information or follow us on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter.

First Name (required)

Your E-mail address (required)

REFERENCES:

[1] http://www.cochrane.org//CD005381/DEMENTIA_physical-activity-and-enhanced-fitness-to-improve-cognitive-function-in-older-people-without-known-cognitive-impairment

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21417955 “The positive impact of physical activity on cognition during adulthood: a review of underlying mechanisms, evidence and recommendations

[3] https://ulib.derby.ac.uk/ecdu/CourseRes/dbs/currissu/Salmon_P.pdf

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09602010802091183#.VN9CH_mG-So

[4] http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnagi.2013.00075/abstract  “Shorter term aerobic exercise improves brain cognition, and cardiovascular fitness”

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/ “How  to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs”

[6] http://www.johnratey.com/ Run, Jump, Learn! How Exercise can Transform our Schools: John J. Ratey, MD at TEDxManhattanBeach

[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8963358 “Prescribing exercise in multiple short bouts versus one continuous bout: effects on adherence, cardiorespiratory fitness, and weight loss in overweight women”