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  • Tamar Balkin

It's Time “To Move It Move It.” Can Exercise Help You As A Leader?

Updated: Oct 23, 2022

It's winter in Sydney, typically a time when we get a bit slack with our exercise goals.

Despite the fact that it's cold and wet, we all know we still need

"to move it, move it".

Reel 2 Real Click here for my favourite recording of the song from the movie Madagascar

I am currently coaching a marketing manager in a multinational who has just been promoted and has the responsibility of realigning the strategic focus of his new team as part of an organisation wide change. His boss attended the first coaching session to set aims and objectives and to ensure that wellbeing is on the coaching agenda. The first aspect of wellbeing my client chose to focus on were his exercise goals. He is well aware of the importance of being proactive with his physical health and incorporating regular exercise into his routine. He is a member of the F45 gym near his office, he has a dog that enjoys walking, and he is part of a squad at the local swimming pool. However, with the changes at work he found that he wasn’t actually doing much exercise. For those who are a bit sceptical, here are a few of the evidenced based benefits of exercise:

  • Pumps blood to the brain, which will make you think more clearly.

  • Increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory.

  • Increases the connections between the nerve cells in the brain. This improves your memory and helps protect your brain against injury and disease.

  • Releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood.

  • Gets you out in the world, help to reduce any feelings of loneliness and isolation, and put you in touch with other people.

  • Regular leisure-time exercise of any intensity provides protection against future depression

  • Diminishes the symptoms of depression and anxiety

  • Improves sleep quality

  • Reduces stress

  • Improves learning

  • Counteracts the mental decline that comes with age and facilitates functional recovery from brain injury

  • Finally there is good evidence to indicate you will live longer

Despite the fact that there is much research on the optimum amount and type of exercise one should undertake, in my opinion the best form of exercise is the one you will actually do. In other words, it is essential to have high self awareness to ensure long term commitment to positive exercise habits.

What are the factors that will enable you to remain committed to long term exercise goals?

  • Determine what you actually enjoy doing. The odds are slim that you will stick to something if you hate it

  • Be realistic about your current routine and fixed commitments, challenge some assumptions you may have.

  • Decide why you are exercising?

  • What do you want to achieve?

  • Ensure the type of exercise is practical in your current circumstances e.g if you live in tropical north Queensland chances are you won’t be able to snowboard three times a week all year round

  • Know what will keep you accountable- eg being part of a team, meeting a friend, personal trainer etc.. remember financial membership may not be enough to motivate you.

  • If you regularly travel have a practical alternative for when you are away from home.

  • Know if you need variety and plan for it.

  • How do you want to feel, before, during and after exercise?

  • If your exercise is based outside ensure you have a wet weather alternative

  • Check with your Doctor or medical specialist before you start anything new.

So what did my client decide to do?

One of the interesting initiatives the marketing manager has committed to is an F45 class every Wednesday at 12pm. He will put it as a recurring event in his diary, so that everyone will know why he won’t be contactable at this time. By sharing his goal with his team, not only will it keep him accountable, he will set a clear example to his new team of the importance of switching off from work, and getting out of the office at lunchtime. To ensure he gets some regular sunshine and his dog gets out, he has reinstated his weekend morning runs with his best friend and sister - both of whom have active dogs. To cover the times when he travels interstate and overseas, he has decided the best exercise is swimming. He realised that he typically stays in a hotel with a pool, and it's not too much trouble to pack his new swimming costume and goggles. Finally, for those days when he hits the snooze button and chooses to miss his early morning gym session, he has committed to small actions like taking the stairs and to getting off the bus a few stop earlier to increase his incidental exercise. How does this relate to leadership? It is apparent that the long list of benefits to exercise align with the complex competencies required of a leader. In addition the tips on implementing a behaviour change so that you stick to your exercise goal, should provide you with some ideas for personal and workplace behaviour change. In addition, exercise is a great platform for role modelling proactive wellbeing behaviour and to opening the conversation and initiating subtle changes to the broader wellbeing activities of yourself, your team, and your organisation. As I finish this blog the sun has finally come out in Sydney, which I hope will also inspire you to get moving and do some exercise...

References: De la Rosa, A; Solana, E. Corpas, Rubén; Bartrés-Faz, Pallàs, Mercè; et al. (Mar 2019) Long-term exercise training improves memory in middle-aged men and modulates peripheral levels of BDNF and Cathepsin B Scientific Reports 9,: 1-11. Harvey SB, Øverland S, Hatch SL, Wessely S, Mykletun A, & Hotopf M (2017) Exercise and the Prevention of Depression: Results of the HUNT Cohort Study. American Journal of Psychiatry 1;175(1):28-36. Kujala UM (2011). Born to be rich, physically active, fit and healthy? The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 20: 367. Myers J, Kaykha A, George S, Abella J, Zaheer N, Lear S et al. (2004). Fitness versus physical activity patterns in predicting mortality in men. American Journal Medicine 117: 912–918. Laurin D, Verreault R, Lindsay J, MacPherson K, Rockwood K (2001). Physical activity and risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in elderly persons. Archives of neurology. 58: 498–504. Schön, M; Kovaničová, Z; Košutzká, Z; Nemec, M; Tomková, M; et al.(2019) Effects of running on adiponectin, insulin and cytokines in cerebrospinal fluid in healthy young individuals Scientific Reports (Nature Publisher Group); Vol. 9, (Feb 2019): Witlox, Lenja; Schagen, Sanne B; de Ruiter, Michiel B; Geerlings, Mirjam I; Peeters, Petra H M; et al. (2019) Effect of physical exercise on cognitive function and brain measures after chemotherapy in patients with breast cancer (PAM study): protocol of a randomised controlled trial. British Medical Journal Open; 9,. 6, Vina, J., Sanchis-Gomar, F., Martinez-Bello, and Gomez-Cabrera, MC (2012) Exercise acts as a drug; the pharmacological benefits of exercise. British Journal of Pharmacology 167 1–12 1

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