Why Are So Many CEOs in Good Shape?

Why Are So Many CEOs in Good Shape?
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A disproportionate percentage of CEOs are in good physical condition – a byproduct of eating well and exercising regularly. But why does this correlation exist? Does fitness make you more likely to succeed, or does being successful make it easier to be fit? Or is there some other explanation for this phenomenon?

CEOs and Exercise

Roughly 76 percent of CEOs make time to exercise every day. It’s difficult to speculate about eating habits among CEOs, since those data are hard to track, but we can imagine physically fit CEOs tend to pay attention to what they eat (and attempt to eat healthy).
Like with any other demographic, physical fitness is a byproduct of regular exercise, healthy eating, and other positive lifestyle habits. So what’s the correlation between CEOs and healthy habits?

Possible Explanations

There are several possible answers to this question.

  • Knowledge. CEOs tend to earn their positions because they’re intelligent and knowledgeable, so it makes sense that they would make time to learn about nutrition. Obviously, some CEOs almost exclusively specialize in one area of expertise; if the CEO happens to know a lot about commercial printing, that doesn’t mean anything about their knowledge of nutrition. That said, to get to such a high position, a person needs to be a reasonably quick learner and open to the very idea of learning, rather than just remaining stagnant. Because of this, CEOs may be more likely to research nutrition and adopt better habits.
  • Self-discipline. CEOs may also have an edge over other professionals because of their level of self-discipline. To perform well in a high executive position, a person needs to be ruthlessly organized and focused on their tasks. People who skip meetings out of laziness or come into work late because of their own personal disorganization don’t tend to rise to this level. Instead, it’s people with profound self-discipline who tend to rise to the top. Self-discipline is indispensable when reinforcing your own health habits. For example, most people aren’t naturally motivated to work out every day, but more disciplined people are willing to push themselves through the routine to achieve their goals.
  • Stress relief. We know that higher level positions in companies tend to be much more stressful. People in higher professional echelons work longer hours, manage bigger deals, and have much more at stake with their daily responsibilities. With all this extra stress, CEOs are usually eager to find new habits and systems that allow them to destress. One of the best tools for relieving stress is physical exercise, so savvy CEOs use it to help them cope with their difficult jobs.
  • Confidence. CEOs tend to be confident; confidence helps them climb the corporate ladder, and having a high position reinforces that confidence. Because of this self-assurance, CEOs may be more likely to believe in themselves when making positive lifestyle changes.
  • Image and public perceptions. There may also be an inverse correlation at play here. Being a CEO may not make you increasingly likely to be physically fit, but physically fit people may be more likely to become CEOs. Whether you’re conscious of it or not, most people tend to prioritize dealing with people who are physically attractive; in matters of hiring and promotion, with all other factors being equal, decision-makers are biased toward the physically fit. Obviously, that doesn’t mean getting in shape is going to get you promoted to CEO, but it’s a factor that could influence your professional future.
  • Salary and freedom. The average base salary for a CEO in the United States is more than $150,000 per year – and remember, that doesn’t include bonuses. That’s a lot of money to help you accomplish any fitness goals you may have. If you want to build a robust home gym, you can do it. If you want to hire a personal trainer or a personal nutrition coach, you can do it. You don’t need these luxuries to lose weight or become more fit, but they certainly help.
  • Networking and social influence. CEOs of organizations also tend to spend a lot of time networking and exerting social influence. They are well connected with their colleagues and people in their community. Because of that, they may be more inspired to work out, they may have more people to exercise with, and they have connections to a wide range of resources that can help them in their fitness journey.

It’s not entirely clear why there’s such a strong correlation between professional success and physical fitness, though we do have several plausible explanations. One thing we do know for sure is that you don’t have to be a CEO to be physically fit; if you’re interested in living a healthier lifestyle, you can start doing that right now, no matter who you are or what your role is.

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