Why Business People are Often Unhealthy

Written by: Alan Rodway

Every business person knows how to be healthy and fit:

  • Eat predominantly healthy food
  • Manage sleep patterns
  • Exercise regularly
  • Manage weight and body fat
  • Manage stress levels
  • Regular medical checks

Most business people could also be said to be smart (intellectually or street smart). But our experience over many years in working with thousands of people in key business roles is that there are too many who are quite unhealthy, physically but also mentally/emotionally. We concede that in the absence of statistics these are just observations but they are too frequent to not be concerned about how business people manage their health.

Our observations are that they too often:

  • Feel or look run down/tired/worn out
  • Contract colds, flu and other bugs
  • Put on and carry too much weight
  • Suffer from (very) high-stress levels
  • Drink too much alcohol
  • Take in too much caffeine
  • Revert to unhealthy outlets to feel better, e.g. gambling

So, why is it that supposedly smart people in key positions in business can get their own health management so wrong? Here are our thoughts and observations.

They:

  • Just work too bloody hard. Years ago this was thought and said to be a fine quality in anyone wanting to get on in business/careers. But there is a tipping point when the hours spent working and thinking about work become unhealthy for any individual. You know the old saying, no one ever left an epitaph of “I wish I’d worked harder”. Wake up you workaholics.
  • Value business success more than their health. No one would consciously do that, of course, but lifestyle shows it to be a reality for some. Making time for business activities instead of what is required to be healthy and well balanced is nonsense.
  • Don’t sleep enough or don’t sleep properly. They work late and/or start early. If that of itself doesn’t cause a lack of sleep then a less than relaxed state at bedtime can. It’s not about being preoccupied with ‘x’ hours sleep each night. It’s about recognizing that the human body needs proper sleep to function effectively.
  • Allow their self worth to be driven by what they do, who they are and what they achieve in business. So this can become the concentration of their time and energy rather than their own health.
  • Take their health as a given. No one consciously does that but many do it unconsciously and anything that is taken for granted is put at risk. It then does not receive the time and effort required.
  • Emphasize business results more than health because they are about today, are highly measurable and are there for everyone to see. Signs of poor health can take longer to surface beyond their causes.
  • Value money more than their health. No one has ever said money is worth more than health but it would appear to be the case for some given the ways they chase it. Conscious reflection would disallow these behaviours, surely, so think hard if this is (accidentally) happening to you.
  • Have accountability imposed on them by the business and are not as good with self-accountability. Businesses have all sorts of ways of holding people to account, including their key people and owners. Not many businesses have KPI’s around individuals’ health so it’s up to the individuals to hold themselves to account for that. The business’s accountability mechanisms tend to win over self-accountability though so health suffers. How often does someone work the extra hour rather than go to the gym?
  • Are less influenced by family and friends than they are by the business. Families are sometimes left in the background, making noise about health changes that should be occurring but the power of the business machine wins out more often.
  • Value power and control more than their health. Attaining power and control is not a bad thing in itself. It’s what happens to the person attaining it that matters. If a bit of power leads to a thirst for more or want it outside of the business arena as well, then it can be unhealthy for the individual as well as for those around them. Control creates attachment of the individual to the control and that can be seriously unhealthy when it’s challenged or dissipates, which often occurs. Anxiety and stress levels will rise. Learn to let go you power mongers and controllers.
  • Play to the unwritten rule that it’s not ok to exercise during the workday. They beaver away to get the work done. Honestly, how absurd. Has any business ever really suffered because someone gets up and does some exercise during the day? No, but the people in it suffer because they don’t! Further, when a key person makes that the example others are strongly influenced (negatively) to follow. That needs to be reversed. Go exercise during the day and show the way.
  • Allow themselves to put on weight and body fat. Putting on just 1 kg in a year adds up over the years. Have a look at your photo of ten years ago and see if there is a significant difference in body weight / fat. Weight gain, once significant, is a serious cause of ill health, physically and emotionally.
  • Are too smart for their own good. They can rationalise most things in ways that are detrimental to their health. Taking a holiday ‘later’, ‘just get this done first’, ‘I’m ok now’, ‘I’ll change next week, next month, next year’. Health deterioration does not delay when its causes are in place.
  • Live in the present not for the future. This is really an anomaly. Business people are supposed to be visionary, futuristic and strategic. They are supposed to “work on the business rather than in it”. Yet, even in the business, so many get bogged down just doing the daily stuff, let alone follow a proper approach for long term health. If it’s not in the moment for a business person then it often doesn’t get attention.
  • Don’t see the medium / longer-term impact of living an unhealthy lifestyle because it’s not their here and now.
  • Are persistent, resilient, determined and positive in nature. It’s like ‘ill health won’t happen to me”. The same personality trait that makes them successful in business can bring them down healthwise.
  • See other business people living the same unhealthy, high-stress life. They then just perpetuate the same dumb approach because it’s the norm and acceptable.
  • Don’t understand the equation for the human body. Therefore they don’t live it. The equation is that health requires the causes of human health to be at least equal if not greater than the detractors. The causes are all those listed at the top of this article, which therefore includes things like time out, relaxing, exercise, reading, music, dinners, meditation, healthy food, good sleep, conversation, and so on. The detractors are the opposites. In very busy, high-stress times in business, so many key people drop off the causes and allow the detractors to increase. The health battle starts being lost.

Sadly, people in business too often wake up when an event causes them to … someone they know suffers ill health, for example. Until then it’s either back of mind, and therefore receives little attention and effort or it’s ignored because it will ‘never happen to me’. It will though if it’s allowed. But this article is not just about the extremes of health. It’s actually as much about daily and weekly health. Take control of your health now, physical, mental and emotional. Mismanagement now has immediate, medium and long term consequences.

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