Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Imagine a senior executive of a Fortune 500 company who had returned from a business trip, didn’t sleep well, and just arrived at the office. His assistant brings him coffee, and because he’s feeling sluggish and hungry, he asks for a donut. After several meetings, returning emails and calls, he realizes it’s almost 6 p.m. and he didn’t have lunch.
On his way home, he sees a middle-aged man exercising outdoors and remembers when he used to work out before work. He recalls how energetic he felt in those days. That was all before he got promoted and became a father.
The truth is it happens to most of us. When we’re younger and have less responsibility, it’s easy to get everything done. Then we get older, our duties increase and our health is the first to suffer. The good news is that the busiest people on the planet with the most grueling schedules make exercise a top priority. And you can too.
I have had the pleasure of working with Richard Branson, Robert Downey Jr. and other celebrities and high achievers. And I can tell you they all make time for their health. Without it, they know they won’t feel and perform to their best.
Investing time in your fitness gives you one of the highest ROI for productivity, performance and overall well-being. Here are the top three reasons why you should be adding a workout routine to your busy life in 2022.
1. Exercise improves work performance
Your mental firepower is directly connected to your fitness levels. Improved concentration, faster learning and a sharper memory are just a few of the benefits you’ll have from a regular physical regimen.
In fact, regular exercise increases the number of brain cells in a region of your brain called the hippocampus. This is linked with learning and memory.
Related: Get a Workout From Your Desk with This Pedal Exerciser on Sale
2. Exercise lowers stress and prevents burnout
For you to make the best decisions possible for your company, your prefrontal cortex — the “CEO” of your brain — needs to be working properly. The higher your stress, the lower the activity in this key area of the brain.
A study of thousands of business executives and HR professionals around the world found leaders and employees are burning out at record rates. In other words, the stress levels of leaders are higher than ever. Studies have found that regular exercise makes one more resilient to the emotional effects of acute stress.
3. Exercise leads to a longer life
Perhaps most striking of all benefits of being a fit leader is that there is solid evidence that being physically fit is key to a longer life.
Landmark studies at The Cooper Institute For Aerobics Research in Dallas have investigated the association between fitness and death. The results revealed that men and women with low levels of physical fitness had more than twice the mortality rate of persons with even a moderate level of physical fitness.
This is crucial because the fitness level of key executives can be a crucial factor in determining the success of the company. An illness or death of a top executive could have far-reaching consequences for an organization.
Related: Peloton Shares Rise After CEO Writes the Company is Considering Layoffs: ‘We Now Need to Evaluate Our Organization Structure and Size of our Team’
How much exercise do you need to perform?
According to the American Heart Association, you should exercise for 30 minutes every five days of the week for a healthy lifestyle.
As a leading fitness and wellness expert for the past 20 years, I recommend all my executive clients focus on being consistent. And the number one key to being consistent is to choose an activity that they enjoy, so they can stick with this habit.
The second key to exercise is scheduling your exercise routine. What gets put on your schedule gets done. Just make sure you select a time that works for you. And don’t cancel it. It’s as important as everything else on your calendar.
The bottom line here is that exercise is as necessary to our bodies as sleep and nutrition. It helps your brain work better, improves your mood and makes you more resistant to stress. Being fit also helps you live longer. For you to be the best leader you can be, being in shape isn’t a nice-to-have — it’s a must.
Now, back to the story…
Later that evening, while struggling to stay awake and answering emails that had piled up during his business trip, the Fortune 500 executive started to think about the man he saw earlier who was exercising outdoors.
He remembered how he used to prioritize his health and make the time. Then he decided to schedule some short workouts to start getting back to the person he used to be.
That’s how you should approach fitness if you want to be a better leader. You must add fitness sessions to your busy schedule and stick with them no matter what comes up. It can be hard to stop working when you’re in the zone to hit the gym, or if you have a lot of fires you’re putting out. But do it anyway.
A wise person (okay, it was Tony Robbins) once said, “We don’t get our goals. We get our musts.” So, if fitness is a “nice to have” but not an absolute must for you, you need to stop everything you’re doing now. Internalize that increasing your performance, energy and focus, wellbeing and adding years to your life is a big enough reason to make fitness a priority.
No matter what your reason is for taking on the challenge to improve your health, exercise will make you a better leader at work, a better role model at home, and will help you make the impact you’re born to make on this planet. Isn’t that what we all want out of life?
Related: How to Make Exercise an Unbreakable Habit