Harvey Mackay Academy's Blog

A woman joined a local health club but after the first day requested her membership be refunded.

“Is there a problem?” asked the proprietor.

“Yes,” she replied. “Your floors are so low I can’t touch my toes.”

Like so many of us discover, getting started is usually the hardest part. Why not start in May – National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.

Going to the gym isn’t just about staying healthy. Lots of people also use it as a place to socialize and meet like-minded people and network. You can multi-task! It makes your workout go faster!

Research published in the Harvard Business Review notes that exercise is not just vital for maintaining physical health, but it is also crucial for mental acuity, which directly impacts business performance.

I don’t need a study to tell me about exercise. I’ve been doing it all my life. It just makes me feel better, gives me energy to work more productively and, I hope, live longer. My philosophy is exercise doesn’t take time; it makes time.

As motivational author Jim Rohn said, “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”

There was a time when the pressures of running MackayMitchell Envelope Company could have easily overwhelmed me. The stress of meeting deadlines, managing a large team and constantly innovating to stay ahead of the competition was immense. However, I found solace and strength in my commitment to regular exercise. I made it a point to integrate physical activity into my daily schedule, no matter how busy I was.

Whether it was a quick jog in the morning, a brisk walk during lunch breaks or a game of tennis, these activities not only kept me physically fit but also mentally sharp. They provided a much-needed break from the mental load, allowing me to return to work with a clearer mind and fresh perspective.

I specifically remember one particular instance when I was facing a challenging negotiation that would significantly impact the future of our company and feeling particularly anxious about it. Instead of succumbing to the pressure, I took a long run on the morning of the negotiation. During that run, I was able to think through my strategy, anticipate potential counterarguments and, most importantly, calm my nerves. The result? I strode into that negotiation with a level of clarity and confidence that I attribute in large part to the benefits from that morning’s exercise.

When you exercise, you increase blood flow to the brain, which can help to sharpen your mental faculties and improve cognitive functions. This is particularly important in a sedentary work environment where the risk of cognitive decline is higher due to less physical activity.

Regular physical activity can lead to improved concentration, sharper memory, faster learning, prolonged mental stamina and enhanced creativity. These benefits can translate into better problem-solving, planning and dealing with the complexities of business.

Moreover, exercise is a powerful stress reliever. It helps in managing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which, when left unchecked, can impair your ability to think clearly and make well-reasoned business decisions.

Canadian self-help writer Robin Sharma said, “If you don’t make time for exercise, you’ll probably have to make time for illness.”

Incorporating more exercise into your routine doesn’t have to be overwhelming. As I’ve mentioned before, starting with manageable segments, such as a 15-minute walk during lunch or after work, can make a significant difference. Gradually increasing the duration and intensity as you become more comfortable can help you maintain consistency and avoid burnout.

Here are a few tips on how to integrate exercise into your business schedule:

• Set specific goals. Just like in business, setting clear, achievable goals for your fitness can help you stay on track.

• Schedule it. Treat your exercise time like a business meeting – non-negotiable.

• Mix it up. Incorporate different types of activities to keep it interesting and work different muscle groups.

• Stay accountable. Find a workout buddy or join a group to keep you motivated.

• Measure progress. Keep track of your exercise routine and improvements in your work performance to see the correlation.

Taking care of your body is a responsibility that should be as high a priority as any business meeting or deadline. Your health is the foundation upon which you can build a successful career and life.

One note of caution: avoid the exercise that lazy people prefer … didley squats.

Mackay’s Moral: Fitness is like a relationship; you can’t cheat and expect it to work.

About the Author

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.