Why exercise can be a great way to boost your bottom line and trim your waist line

I remember, as a 5-foot-5-inch executive, being at senior-level conferences and trying to act “taller.” I noticed and later read that the majority of CEOs are more than 6 feet tall. That is a personal stat that is hard to change. Lately, there is one other stat that is getting a lot of attention: BMI. For those of you not sure what BMI is, it is a measure of your body fat as determined by your height and weight.

A Wall Street Journal article highlighted research that showed that executives who have a BMI under 25 percent are perceived more positively by peers than those with BMIs over 25 percent. Why? Perhaps it has to do with self-control or discipline or energy levels. Regardless, it is a perception that can impact your career — and your company’s prospects.

The great thing about this is that you can do something about it. And, it doesn’t have to be doing triathlons or taking up hockey again after all these years. It is about moving more every day. How do you know how much you move? You track it.

Consider every other metric important to your company’s success. You track revenue, receivables, payables, aging inventory, product turns, absenteeism, retention and, I am sure, many other things. If it is important, you track it. As we all know, we achieve what we measure.

While you are thinking about what you personally can do to move more, think about how it would help the rest of your senior team and all your employees if they do the same.

How do you get started in this effort?

Create a baseline and then focus on continuous improvement. If you care about productivity, you need to pay attention. Studies have shown that the cost of obesity for every 1,000 workers equates to $285,000 each year. This number includes absenteeism, increased medical costs, worker’s compensation claims and increased drug costs.

Of course, not everyone is obese, although more than 70 percent of the people in the United States are overweight and obesity is now considered an epidemic.

Moving more helps everything. It helps our creativity, it keeps our brain younger, it helps ward off heart disease and cancer. You name it; it helps. (For more information on BMI, including how to calculate yours, go to this web page from the National Institutes of Health: www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/BMI/bmicalc.htm)

Make it happen

Wouldn’t it be great if your employees felt as accountable for their own health as they do for other aspects of the company? Productivity will soar, your retention will be at record levels and people will clamor to work for you. I couldn’t grow taller, but I could be in shape.

In a variety of top-level corporate jobs, I traveled all the time so a gym wasn’t always an option. So I put on a pedometer and started tracking.

Soon, my senior team all started wearing them. We started doing walking meetings. One-on-one sessions while we were moving became the norm. We started sharing our goals and cheering for each other.

I personally began tracking 10,000 steps a day. And, we became the fastest growing division within the company — by profits — not by waistlines.

If it seems like a big undertaking, consider an outside wellness expert to help you set up a plan, create the metrics and lead the implementation and engagement.

Yes, size counts. You want increases in your bottom-line and shrinkage at the waistline.

Sue Parks, a former top-level executive with USWest, Gateway and Kinkos, is a corporate wellness expert. She is the founder and CEO of WalkStyles Inc., www.walkstyles.com, based in Irvine, Calif., and co-author of “iCount, 10 Simple Steps to a Healthy Life.”

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