Exercise and the Entrepreneur Post-COVID

Pandemic! Economy! Russia! Civil unrest! Even in the best of times, exercising might seem unappealing. Busy entrepreneurs can be short on the energy required to launch off the couch and into the gym. However, the healthy dose of dopamine, serotonin, and natural endorphins released when exercising give benefits that can help you level-up professionally.

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A survey of more than 1,600 people found that higher levels of depression and anxiety may have impacted people’s exercise motivation during the pandemic. Social distancing, mask mandates, and the closure of exercise studios and gyms across the country has also made it difficult for many to exercise.

Desreen Dudly, a Clinical Psychologist working in the healthcare industry, reports that the pandemic has raised new challenges when it comes to physical fitness.  She says, “Due to many adults working longer hours at home and struggling to strike a healthy balance between work life and home life, engaging in self-care activities such as exercise has felt like an unproductive use of time.”

Why exercise?

It’s a fact: exercise is one of the key components for good health and longevity. Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress - one thing almost all entrepreneurs experience when building a business.

Researchers have found that those who regularly exercised vigorously were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years. The most recent federal guidelines for adults recommend at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) each week, 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity (such as jogging or swimming laps), or a combination of the two.

Working out is a habit the successful tend to have in common — 76 percent of the wealthy exercise for at least 30 minutes every day, according to Tom Corley, author of “Change Your Habits, Change Your Life.”

If that’s not enough to get you up and moving, read more about how exercise can help you be a better business owner and employer.

Benefits for the Entrepreneur

Stress and small business ownership go together like peanut butter and jelly, but exercise has direct stress-busting benefits. In addition to possibly increasing income and stress relief, aerobic exercise, such as running, can significantly improve your ability to focus and improve your memory. Here’s a list of other benefits specific to entrepreneurs:

  • Build your network

Working out at the local club or playing a team sport can help you gain prospective clients or strengthen existing business relationships. Working out together presents opportunities to pitch your business. But beware – no one wants a hard sell when working out. Read the room so you can gauge reception.

  • Get your creative juices flowing

The neuroscience is clear: aerobic exercise is extremely good for your brain. In fact, working out raises your IQ far more than playing an online brain game. A Swedish study showed that cardiovascular fitness could raise your verbal intelligence by 50 percent. Therefore, a workout might be just what you need before a brainstorming session.

  • Reduce stress

Physical activity reduces stress hormones and increases the production of endorphins that give you a natural high. Getting in a workout, whether before work or during the workday, can allow you to approach your work with a calmer mindset. Whereas stress can render you unable to make rational business decisions

  • Boost your confidence

Confidence can reinforce that you can achieve goals, help you realize that failing doesn't make you a failure, and sparks belief in your business that others will want to buy your goods or services. Whether building a business or going through a rough patch, even the smallest fitness win can help you gain the confidence you need to achieve larger goals in your business life.

  • Boost energy

Ditch your morning cup of coffee and head to the gym instead. Regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance. Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system operate more efficiently. When your heart and lung health improve, you have more energy to tackle daily chores.

  • Improves delegation

Many business owners are reluctant to turn over projects to employees. It’s not surprising – your business is your baby and you’ve likely poured hours into it. However, the lack of delegation can lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout for entrepreneurs. Exercise clears your mind and eases stress so you can review your responsibilities realistically and delegate.

Invest in standing desks

Sitting is the new smoking! There’s a fresh health threat in town and it’s something practically everyone does. Yes, sitting too much during the day is bad for your overall health. Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with several health problems, including obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Yikes!

Some small business owners are constantly on the move. If you’re not one of them, consider investing in a stand-up desk. It takes some getting used to, but most adapt quickly and end up preferring standing to sitting.  If it’s in your budget, set your staff up with convertible desks as well. For more in-depth info on this topic, check out 7 Benefits of a Standing Desk.

Encourage “walking meetings”

Steve Jobs was famous for his walking meetings around the Apple campus. Exercise is a great way to help get your creative juices flowing! Instead of sitting across from an employee for a meeting, suggest a walking meeting. Both of you will benefit from this type of meeting.

Offer longer lunch breaks

Eating at your desk isn’t healthy for you or your employees. And who wants crumbs on the keyboard? Encourage physical activity during lunchtime by giving your team a longer break. Check with gyms and other exercise studios in your area to see if you can secure a lower cost for classes or memberships.

Give employees back the weekends

If your team is never off the clock – emails and texts fly around during the evenings or on weekends – implement a “no work during off hours” policy.

In Portugal, it's now illegal for your boss to call outside work hours. Encourage employees to use a little of that extra time gained for physical activity.

Motivating quotes to help you get started

No successful entrepreneur ever built a business by talking about it. Great businesses are built by doers, and everyone needs a motivational push from time to time. If you’re looking for motivation to start a fitness routine, check out these quotes from professionals from various fields:

"If something stands between you and your success, move it. Never be denied." - Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, professional wrestler, and actor

"There comes a certain point in life when you have to stop blaming other people for how you feel or the misfortunes in your life. You can't go through life obsessing about what might have been." - Hugh Jackman, actor, and member of the 1000-pound deadlift club

"Success is usually the culmination of controlling failure." - Sylvester Stallone, actor

Most people give up right before the big break comes--don't let that person be you." - Michael Boyle, performance coach to the 2013 World Series Championship Red Sox and owner of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning

"You have to push past your perceived limits, push past that point you thought was as far as you can go." - Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints and 2010 Super Bowl MVP

"Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen." - Michael Jordan, 6-time NBA Championship winner

Final thoughts

In light of the economic impact of Covid, physical fitness might not be high on your list of business growth strategies. But it should be. Moving more—even in modest increments—is one of the simplest ways for you and your employees to sharpen minds, reduce stress and absenteeism, and stimulate creativity and productivity. Time to get up and get moving!

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The SmartBiz® Small Business Blog and other related communications from SmartBiz Loans® are intended to provide general information on relevant topics for managing small businesses. Be aware that this is not a comprehensive analysis of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide specific recommendations to you or your business with respect to the matters addressed. Please consult legal and financial processionals for further information.