Across the city I call home I am surrounded by people in their 20s and early thirties who seem to see fitness, gym attendance and a public display of body sweat and near exhaustion to be a way of life.
Not so with me. I’m from a different generation. That’s not to say people of my peer group didn’t exercise. I just don’t remember it being a staple of our regular week of activity when I was of a similar age. Or, perhaps it was just me.
It isn’t all good news for our young. The NHS reports that child obesity in the UK is currently around 33.9% and that it poses one of the most serious of global health challenges of the 21st century.
Strange as it may seem, as a child I was more fit and active out of school than I was when in attendance.
The large garden to my childhood home had a gate that opened on to woodland. I remember spending hours, days even running through the undergrowth, leaves and sometimes a carpet of Bluebells. I would climb trees and build dams. Exercise was just a part of the course.
In school, however, I didn’t seem to fit in very well. I didn’t look cool or sporty. That I was from a poor home meant that I simply couldn’t have the flash trainers and the branded sportswear that my classmates wore.
This was at a time when teachers could get away with a whole lot more than they can or would even think of doing today.
Despite my enthusiasm to try I was ridiculed by two of my teachers. The effects of this bullying has remained with me.
Once, during a class and while seeking to be helpful in our school sports hall, I ran to collect a stray tennis ball. My teacher, Mr Tompkins called out to me: ‘Fat boy, get back to the group!’ My classmates, who both heard and laughed at Mr Tompkins' command were sat on the cold floor waiting to hear fresh instructions for the next activity.
I remember another occasion going to Mr Gray to let him know I’d forgotten my swim shorts. Without paying much attention Mr Gray foraged around in a nearby basket near to the door of his office and pulled out a large pair of shorts that clearly weren’t intended for the swimming pool.
I went to the changing rooms and found to my horror that the only way I would swim in these shorts would be one-handed, with my other hand holding the shorts in place to protect my dignity.
Of course, I told Mr Gray about the shorts being too large, but he angrily dismissed me and told me to simply ‘get on with it.’ I couldn’t find the confidence to tell the truth. Perhaps if I had, Mr Gray wouldn’t have been so cross. I had lost my swim shorts and there was no way my Mother could afford a replacement pair, not for some while at any rate.
I did find some enjoyment in basketball, volleyball and badminton while in school. This was very short-lived. I wasn’t encouraged to participate and was, apparently, not good enough to play in teams or competitions. Perhaps I wasn’t.
Why am I telling you all this?
Aside from exercise being good for our health it is essential for so much more. Our minds are sharper and more engaged when we exercise. We are better at paying attention. Our relationships are better too.
Exercise is also good for our business and brand building. A leader of any business is only as good as his/her health. Good health is at the heart of any good business.
Here are 5 good reasons for why exercise is good for us and for our business success:
1. We extend our network
I have recently been reminded that participation in forms of exercise with friends and colleagues widens and extends our network. It follows that opportunities exist to build relationships with people in like-minded activity, who could be prospective clients.
It’s possible that we get to know people differently in the context of doing exercise than perhaps we might otherwise over a cup of coffee, for example.
2. We think creatively
Exercise is not only good for the body, it stimulates the mind too. An increased flow of blood to the brain is great for getting the creative juices flowing. Decisions that are difficult to make in the office can be solutions found when briskly walking or running.
3. We reduce stress
Stress is a part of modern life. Most of us have some form of stress in the home or wider family and many of us deal with stress in the workplace.
We all know that stress can impact upon our health significantly and negatively. Physical activity reduces stress hormones and increases endorphin production. It is this that gives us a natural high.
Getting exercise at some point during the working day not only allows us to take a break, but it enables further work to be handled with a calmer, more efficient mindset thereafter.
4. We get a shot of confidence
Accomplishing a fitness goal brings a great sense of achievement. It brings a sense of confidence that can find its way into the demands of our day.
Where once we had been battling away to get something done, win a deal or find a solution to a problem, and often with lower than normal levels of confidence, exercise can give us that much-needed ‘shot in the arm’.
5. We increase energy levels
For a long time my day would begin with a cup of coffee, without which I wondered if my heart would start. Not literally, of course!
I don’t sleep particularly well as a rule and I would often face my day with fatigue. My case is a little different, as in 1993 I developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which later developed into M.E. There are residual effects still today and I must manage these carefully.
While getting to sleep hasn’t improved as much as I would like I have found more recently that exercise during the week has increased my energy levels and improved my alertness.
Despite my attempts to consign negative experiences in school to the past they stay with me. Doing exercise is still a challenge for me, mentally more than anything. Sadly, I seem to remember everything that was negative about sport and exercise in school rather than the many days of fun I had in the woods behind my childhood home.
I am grateful to friends and to colleagues who have been spurring me on to do Parkrun and to go to the gym. Though I inwardly rebel I know I will be better for it. And, so will my business.
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