2007 Shape-Up

Take it from these experts--healthy choices benefit both your body and your bottom line.

It's no secret that entrepreneurs work their tails off--at least the ones who turn out to be successful. And often, your own health and well-being get lost in the shuffle of build-ing a business. It's a dangerous path to be on, particularly if you hope to keep growing your business year after year.

Now that it's a new year, we figure it's prime time for us to remind you of one of the most important resolutions you can make in 2007. Now is the time to take care of yourself--mentally and physically--as well as your employees. We spoke with two experts for some practical advice on integrating wellness into your life and your business: Don R. Powell, Ph.D., president and CEO of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine in Farmington Hills, Michigan; and Larina Kase, doctor of psychology and founder of Performance & Success Coaching in Philadelphia.

Entrepreneur: How can entrepreneurs integrate wellness into their busy lives?

Don R. Powell: You don't have to run a marathon, but you should exercise for 30 minutes three or four times a week. You should be sitting down and eating breakfast rather than skipping meals. I meditate twice a day, and that's a tremendous stress reliever. Another issue is sleep. We recommend getting seven hours a night, and most entrepreneurs get five or six.

Larina Kase: Entrepreneurs can get started on a healthy diet, fitness and stress-relief program by first taking some time to recognize the benefits. We all know we should improve in these areas, but until you have a clear sense of how it will benefit you and your business, you will remain unmotivated and be less likely to follow through.

I have my clients make two lists: first, how your life, mood, relationship, appearance and so on will improve if you commit to a wellness program; second, how your business's bottom line, your leadership abilities and your business partnerships stand to improve.


Entrepreneur: What if you're too busy to exercise?

Powell: For entrepreneurs who can't fit in even 30 minutes of exercise, they should try to incorporate exercise into their normal daily activities.

For instance, instead of parking at the closest spot to the office, park as far away as possible. Instead of taking the elevator, use the stairs. Instead of having your secretary bring a letter to your office, go to your secretary's desk for it. Make a point of walking around the office as much as possible, not only to oversee staff, but also to get exercise. Hobbies [and chores] outside the office, like gardening and mowing the lawn, also help with fitness.

Kase: I recommend that entrepreneurs set realistic goals about what they can commit to and what they can accomplish given their busy schedules. Goals should be in the SMART format [specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time limited] and should focus on the short-term rewards. For example, I can spend 40 minutes at the gym during my lunch break on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The benefits are returning to work with a clear head, increased energy and improved focus for the afternoon.


Entrepreneur: And what if you're too busy to prepare healthy meals?

Kase: These realistic goals [that I mentioned] can include great time-saving strategies, such as cooking a healthy meal on Sundays and freezing it to eat for several nights during the week, or eating healthy organic frozen meals.

Powell: Even if entrepreneurs are forced to eat at a fast-food restaurant, they can still make healthy choices. Ideally, they would eat salads, which are now offered at many of these restaurants. They can select chicken or fish over red meat and small hamburgers if they do eat red meat.

Entrepreneur: If you're a healthy entrepreneur, you'll want your employees to follow in your footsteps. What can entrepreneurs do to get their employees healthy?

Powell: Just providing a map of surrounding areas where they can walk at lunchtime is a way to [begin getting] people healthier. A common mistake that CEOs make is not [being] a good role model. "Do as I say and not as I do" will decrease the effectiveness of a wellness program.

Kase: Another key component is accountability. Research on why people go to classes at the gym shows that it is most often because of the other people in the class. Accountability could include working with a personal trainer, dietitian, wellness coach, friend and exercise buddy, business partner, spouse or anyone who can hold you accountable while you're forming a new habit.


Entrepreneur: How does integrating wellness into your business make for a better business?

Powell: You have increased productivity and employee morale, and reduced health-care costs, absenteeism and "presenteeism"--when someone is at work but is not able to be productive. It shows your company is taking an interest in [employees'] health and well-being. The average return is $3.50 for every dollar spent on a wellness program. Entrepreneurs have a sense of the bottom line, and providing wellness [tools] will help grow your company.

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Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance business writer in Southern California.

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This article was originally published in the January 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Fit or Miss.

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