The Workaholic’s Guide to Creative Fitness at the Office

One of the most important elements of success is time/priority management. Whether you are striving to become the best possible parent, athlete, or business partner, this element must be addressed and optimized in order for success to truly be obtained.

Yet in today’s hectic and fast-paced world, this same entity seems to compete for our attention among so many other daily tasks, including individual fitness and well-being. Nowhere is this in greater evidence than in the boardroom, or the life of a busy executive. The pulse of the workplace for today’s executives is intense. The international direction taken by many businesses has increased the amount of travel required by employees to develop and maintain a global presence for their companies. Another major energy drain is brought on by the stress related to being responsible for the welfare of other team members as well as the success of the parent corporation. Endless meetings coupled with extremely long work hours are becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Yet, the typical executive tends to manage his health with less efficiency and devotion than he brings to his business, which puts him at high risk for serious health problems. A study last year found that only 27 percent of executives engaged in enough exercise to be considered “healthy.”

When it comes to creating a space in one’s busy life for the maintenance of health and well-being, addressing the time/priority management issue with a boss or supervisor can cause a bit of consternation on the part of some employees. However, when viewed in the proper light, it seems getting fit may actually hold an advantage in the workplace.

A study from the Center for Creative Leadership found that executives who exercise are significantly more effective leaders than those who don’t. Using data from CEOs and other top executives collected over a span of 10 years, the researchers compared two groups: those who were regular exercisers and those who were sedentary or sporadic exercisers. This status was then cross-referenced with “360-degree” assessment tools, in which each individual was rated by colleagues on various leadership attributes. The result was that the employees who dedicated time to wellness and fitness rated significantly higher than their non-exercising peers on overall leadership effectiveness. They also scored higher on specific traits, such as inspiring commitment, credibility, leading others, leading by example, energy, resilience and calmness.

In addition to this research, a report in 2008 by the University of Bristol published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management outlined how healthy employees have increased productivity, concentration, energy and creativity.

Armed with this knowledge, how can one best put it into action? Certainly finding the time to exercise when faced with long hours at work requires a commitment to dedication; here is where a little creativity can go a long way towards finding ways to incorporate fitness into any busy schedule.

Establishing a personal goal of engaging in something active every day is the best way to begin. This practice encourages focus on time management; once you know where your time goes, it is easier to take control of it and claim even a few minutes each day for personal well-being. Short, 10-minute bursts of moderate-intensity exercise, adding up to a total of 30 minutes a day, can boost mood and energy. The majority of executives spend more time than that each day just answering personal email!

Here are some ways to sneak exercise into your crowded workday:

  • Park your car at the far end of the lot. When you arrive at the lobby of your building, bypass the elevator and take the stairs.
  • Each time you get up to visit the restroom, and upon returning to your office, perform 10 to 20 push-up’s off the side of your desk. Even the busiest CEO takes time for a bathroom break!
  • Business travelers can work in exercise on the road by packing a set of stretch cords for resistance training. Walking between airport terminals and gates, too, can provide a good amount of legwork.
  • During a long afternoon meeting, perform a series of calf raises under the table.
  • Schedule five minutes an hour on your calendar for jumping jacks in your office, to get your blood flowing. Improved circulation helps increase your powers of concentration.

Building in time during the day for rejuvenation is not merely about how you schedule; more importantly, it is about what you value.

Choosing to prioritize your health is the first step toward making yourself a strong leader. Leadership is about vision. Vision cannot come without reflection, and reflection doesn’t happen without pause. So, build in some pause in your life– it will keep you healthier, and it will fuel the clarity of your vision for the company … and for your life.


1. Sharon McDowell-Larsen August 7, 2009, The Washington Post

2. Christopher P. Nock and Kenneth Cooper Academy of Management Executive, 2000

3. Cody Ellerd Bay The Seattle Times Company, January 3, 2010

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About the Author

Cathleen Kronemer is an AFAA-Certified Group Exercise Instructor, NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer, competitive bodybuilder and freelance writer. She is employed at the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis, MO. Cathleen has been involved in the fitness industry for 22 years. Look for her on

She welcomes your feedback and your comments!


These resources are for the purpose of personal trainer growth and development through Continuing Education which advances the knowledge of fitness professionals. This article is written for NFPT Certified Personal Trainers to receive Continuing Education Credit (CEC). Please contact NFPT at 800.729.6378 or [email protected] with questions or for more information.
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