Are you fit for business?


About three years ago, I had a health scare, which proved to be a turning point in my life. 

Nothing too serious, just a realisation that I am of “that age” where, due to a number of reasons, I found myself in a situation where I was very overweight, very unfit and a real couch-potato.

I was walking home from work one day, a rare occasion in those days, up a small hill and I found myself out of breath, tight chested and a little bit scared, thinking “am I heading for a heart-attack”?  I remember realising I had to do something about this, but what?

Cue a health-check with my doctor which revealed the typical middle aged bloke conditions of high blood pressure and high cholesterol amongst other things.  I was immediately prescribed medication and advised that I ought to lose some weight.

My first reaction was a mild feeling of depression, combined with jealousy of some friends who had managed to regain their fitness and lose lots of weight, along the way.  I thought I could never do that myself.  I don’t enjoy sport and I love food – not an ideal situation. I didn’t want to diet and I didn’t fancy joining a gym or sports club, so what to do?

My first thought was that as I enjoy walking perhaps I could try a bit more of that, at least that would be a start, but what about the food?

I discovered that there were a number of apps that inform you of the calories in certain foods as well as monitoring your daily intake in comparison with your needs.  There were some real eye-openers here, for instance, I was drinking a lot of squash at the time and I realised it was full of calories so I substituted that with pure lime or lemon juice with only a few calories instead.  Other things like jars of pasta sauce, which are full of calories, were replaced with home-made sauces.

I quickly realised that by modifying what I eat and taking a bit more notice of the calorie count, along with preparing meals with a slightly lower fat ingredients, and switching to smaller portions I could still enjoy my food, but reduce my calories intake quite significantly. This didn’t feel like dieting and became a good habit quickly.  Some weight loss started to happen.

So, what about some exercise?

I said earlier, that I enjoyed walking so I thought “lets try some more of that”.  I’m fortunate in that my office is about a mile from my home, so that would be a good starting point – that’s 2 miles a day, or about 40 minutes exercise – good start.  I also tried extending my walk to work and sometimes my walk back home – even better.  The nice thing about this was that apart from leaving a few minutes earlier, it wasn’t impacting on my day and it quickly became apart of my day – another good habit.

This continued for some months and I noticed that my weight was starting to reduce steadily, maybe a pound or so a week.  The great thing was that it was sustainable, because my lifestyle had changed.

Fast-forward to this year.  As well as the usual walks to or from work, some lunchtime walking and some walking for pleasure at the weekends, I now find myself five stones lighter and have sustained this for nearly a year.  I have lost over 25% of my starting weight and have gone from being obese to normal weight. I even purchased my first “extra slim fit” shirt!  I am no longer on medication and I feel better than I ever have, both physically and mentally and I am full of confidence that I can remain this way because I am enjoying my new lifestyle.

People often comment on my new appearance and say that they could never do the same.  They will find reasons, such as, “I can’t walk every day, because I have to get to my work by train, bus or driving”.  Well, I might say what about parking a mile or so, from the car park or office and then walking the rest?  This will have the benefit of adding some exercise to your daily routine as well as saving those station car park costs.  What about a 20 minute walk in your lunchbreak – that’s another mile.  Do that every day and you are integrating an hour of exercise into your day.

If you can manage 2.75 miles every day, that amounts to 1000 miles a year – what an achievement!

So, why not give it a go – if you are not used to exercising take medical advice first.  Then get out there and explore.  Have a look at local maps, for all of those lovely footpaths.  I can guarantee that you will see some of natures wonders when walking in countryside.  If you’re visiting a city, have a wander, rather than getting the tube or a bus, explore and you’ll be amazed at what you might find.

Finally consider the benefits of walking, for an hour a day:

  • Boosts memory and reduces risk of a stroke
  • Gives you time to switch off
  • Cuts your risk of a heart attack
  • Boosts bone density
  • Prevents muscle wastage
  • Cuts your risk of obesity
  • Could help to prevent breast and bowel cancer
  • It’s free
  • And it’s fun

I can’t guarantee you will lose weight, but it certainly won’t do you any harm.

What has this got to do with being fit for business?

I mentioned earlier about changing my lifestyle to a healthier one, in a sustainable manner.

The first consideration is the saying “fit body, fit mind”.  The new healthier you will be much better placed to carry out the day to day tasks in your chosen career, both physically and mentally.  You should feel less tired and more energised, helping you to make those important decisions, which is certainly a good start and should continue to improve as your health/fitness improves.

For people running their own businesses, they often have to make decisions about growing their business.

Coincidentally, as I started my new fitter lifestyle I met with a business coach colleague of mine to discuss how I should be progressing my business’ growth.  I didn’t have a really clear view of what direction to take, I thought should I look at acquiring some blocks of clients for some really quick growth or was there another way? When we investigated further, it became apparent that if we just continued “steady as she goes”, in other words, continue with our slow steady growth we would do just fine, with none of the headaches that sudden growth would bring such as resourcing issues and so on.

It is a bit like my gradual weight loss which didn’t feel like dieting. The steady business growth doesn’t impact on the normal day to day running of the business and it is sustainable.

So here we are now, I am healthy and so is my business.  I know there are no guarantees but by making those small steady changes you can maximise your chances with little effort.

I sincerely hope this inspires you to make that small change, to a fitter, healthier and happier you.

You can listen to Henry in conversation with Benjamin Berry using the player below:

Henry Cooper FMAAT was AAT's 32nd President.

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