As an entrepreneur you probably spend most of your day hustling, putting out fires, and more likely than not, sitting hunched over your dimly lit computer screen trying to figure out what you’ve got yourself into. Like many of the people reading this article (including myself), this is the life you’ve chosen, it’s not glamorous, but it’s what you want at this very moment in time and you wouldn’t want to have it any other way. As you well know, the startup lifestyle doesn’t afford the finer things in life: spending quality time with friends and family, a sense of financial security, and food not in ramen form. Among one of these things that the startup lifestyle doesn’t seemingly afford is the time to exercise. How could you when you’re pulling 16 hour days 7 days a week? This dogged commitment to working on your startup is honorable, but also in some ways a shame, because with just 30 minutes a day of exercise you can be a more focused, energetic and creative you. I believe that taking care of oneself only fuels our ability to dig deeper, to persist longer, and to give more to our co-workers, community, and causes. Exercise in fact might be the best investment you’ll ever make towards the success of your startup. Here are 5 reasons why you should never cancel on exercise.
At their core entrepreneurs are creative beings. They create businesses that solve people’s problems, and products and services that create profound economic, cultural, and social value. As Dr. John Ratey concluded in his work Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, exercise has a tremendous effect on your ability to not only think and solve problems, but also to create. In addition, other studies have shown that every dimension of cognition, including creativity, can improve by exercising. Does 30 minutes a day of exercise sound too steep of a proposition in return for improved creativity?
When you need a boost of energy you probably reach for a cup of coffee or an energy drink right? The thing about coffee and other stimulants is that eventually you come crashing down entering a vicious cycle where the solution to your crash is more caffeine and sugar. Wouldn’t it be better to have a longer lasting type of energy with no crash? Then look no further than exercise. Exercise helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to your body and improves the efficiency of your cardiovascular system. Ultimately when your heart and lungs are operating more efficiently, you have more energy to put out fires and keep going. Exercise adds more energy by expending energy, slightly counter intuitive, but it works.
Increased Focus and Concentration
Studies have also shown that regular exercise can improve your ability to focus and concentrate. Here’s how it works: concentration occurs when the brain’s prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that controls high-level tasks) is filled with the right bodily chemicals, particularly dopamine. When you exercise you naturally flood your prefrontal cortex with a chemical concoction that improves focus and concentration. When you have lots of things to do, and have tons of deadlines hanging over your head, exercise induced focus and concentration can go a long way in keeping you on task to ship what needs to be shipped.
Research has shown that regular physical activity can add extra years to your life. With the short amount of time we all have on this earth a few extra years is pretty significant. Living longer means more time to bring awesome ideas to life and to solve the problems that matter the most to you. To an entrepreneur there is nothing more exciting than the opportunity to create something that not only solves a problem but creates a lot of value for everyone involved.
In a Stanford University Medical School study, older and middle-age subjects reported sleeping better when they added regular exercise to their routine. After 16 weeks in a moderate intensity exercise program, subjects were able to fall asleep about 15 minutes earlier and sleep about 45 minutes longer at night. How many hours of sleep do you get a night? I’m going out on a limb here and saying 8 or more is out of the question, with 5 to 6 (or less) being right on the money. We all know that sleep is essential to doing good work, and as studies have shown time and time again, exercise can help get you to sleep faster and for longer, keeping you alert throughout the day and better prepared to tackle the next task of moving your business forward.
The most common excuse I hear why entrepreneurs, and for most people for that matter, don’t exercise is that they just don’t have the time. I want to contend that you don’t have time not too. Regular physical activity makes us more energetic, creative, and focused. For just 30 minutes a day, what entrepreneur wouldn’t want all that?
Kevin Asuncion is the founder of Movemo, a health and fitness company that teaches and empowers those who move our world forward to live healthier so that they can increase the positive change they make in the world.