Fit for life Featured

10:01am EDT July 22, 2002

You're working 60-hour weeks, your cash flow is a constant problem and one of your biggest customers is on the verge of bankruptcy. Who has time to exercise?

"For the small-business owner, the climate they are in puts them under so much stress it is very important that they exercise," advises Larry Roofner, director of wellness for the Orlando Regional Healthcare System. "Many executives use the martini to relieve stress, but exercise is a better way. Some experts say 80 percent of all diseases are stress related."

Opinions vary as to how often and how long you should exercise, but all of the experts agree: Something is better than nothing.

"When I talk to attorneys, doctors and entrepreneurs at the gym, people may say time is a big issue, but they would say they can't afford not to take care of their health," says Mitch Maday, general manager of the Sporting Club at the Bellvue, a health and fitness facility in downtown Philadelphia. "It helps manage stress properly, and all the health benefits of exercise carry over into their effectiveness as a businessperson and their personal life. You have to look at exercise the way you do finances: You always pay yourself first. Do the same thing with scheduling time for exercise, even if it's just 20 minutes or an hour a day three to five times a week."

He adds: "Their health and business are more tied together than they realize."

Whether you schedule a prework morning workout to increase your alertness in the first half of the day or take a trip to the club at lunch to break up your workday, the benefits to your health and your business will become obvious.

"Some even do business while working out," says Maday. "They'll talk to their associates about business. You just have to build it into your schedule and stick to it as religiously as brushing your teeth. It can be walking or coming in to a gym. Build it in as a family activity if you need to, even if it's just going for a bike ride."

The more activity you add to your life, the better you will begin to feel. Don't limit your options to just the exercise room at the local club.

"Walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, play outdoor games-just find something you enjoy doing," recommends Roofner. "If you don't, you won't stick with it. That's why I don't recommend a stationary bike or treadmill, because it becomes boring and ends up being a clothes rack in the bedroom."

Vary the type of exercises you do. Do some things at the worksite-even if it's just walking at lunch-some at home and something else at the fitness center.

"It also helps to have some sort of evaluation before you begin," says Roofner. "Find out what your body fat and endurance are; that way you can measure your improvement."

He also suggests some type of strength training. "Muscle requires more energy than fat, and by increasing your muscle mass, it speeds up your metabolism," says Roofner. "It also helps better regulate your blood sugar. If you are stronger and more flexible, the quality of life improves."

Maday says that you should start to feel a difference after two to four weeks. He warns not to push too hard: "Your exercise program is for life, not just for a few weeks. Once you get it into your routine, you'll start feeling better in no time at all."

Before jumping into an exercise program, you should always consult your doctor or hospital first. They'll give you a checkup and advise you about any special concerns of which you should be aware. Also, make sure you know how to properly work the equipment you buy or use at the club, because improper use can cause injuries. A club professional or even a hospital-based wellness program can usually give you the proper instruction, and can also recommend a routine that will maximize the effects of your workout.

"Make a commitment to exercise," says Roofner. "Draw family members into the program to help you. Get more activity in your life. Cut your own grass, or do some gardening-you'll feel better."