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Leading Effectively Podcast

A Leader's Best Bet: Exercise

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Regular exercise is one of the best ways to stay healthy during times of stress. According to research from the Center for Creative Leadership, executives who are physically fit are considered to be more effective leaders than those who aren't.

It's a known fact that people gain huge health benefits when they exercise. What is even more interesting from a leadership perspective is that organizations stand to gain when their leaders are physically fit, said CCL's Sharon McDowell-Larsen.

Recent research from CCL shows that regular exercise and effective leadership go hand-in-hand. Leaders who exercise regularly were rated significantly higher by their bosses, peers and direct reports on their leadership effectiveness than those who don't. Time invested in regular exercise, even if it means spending less time at work, is correlated with higher ratings of leadership effectiveness. It seems that a healthy lifestyle can help executives better cope with the stresses and demands of their positions, ultimately increasing their leadership effectiveness.

Staying healthy during times of stress requires either reducing the strain or boosting one's ability to weather its effects. Try to find ways to reduce the external pressures that cause stress and overload. Meanwhile, improve your ability to process stress by establishing healthy habits. The University of Iowa reports that regular exercise not only reduces stress, but also helps reduce anxiety, improve sleep and boost immunity from colds and flu. Exercise also helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Here are six of McDowell-Larsen's tips for making exercise a way of life:

No 1: Do less, more often. Short stints of moderate exercise performed daily are better for maintaining energy and boosting performance than an hour performed only on the weekends.

No 2: Break up the day. Find little ways to increase your activity throughout the day: walk while talking on the mobile phone, take frequent stretch breaks, park at the far end of the lot, and take the stairs.

No 3: Keep track. Log your workouts: what you did and for how long. You'll be able to track progress, set goals and stay motivated.

No 4: Take it on the road. Book hotels with fitness facilities or health club access. Pack a set of stretch cords for resistance training, a pair of running shoes and a swimsuit.

No 5: Be flexible. Take advantage of an open slot in your calendar whenever it appears. If someone else keeps your calendar, have him or her schedule workouts for you.

No 6: Mix it up. While your stationary bike or treadmill may be convenient, you're likely to get bored eventually. When the weather is nice, go outdoors. Play a sport or a game of tag. Try a new exercise class. Or go dancing.

Regular exercise will not only help your personal health, but it will help you and others at the workplace as well, making you a better leader.

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