In 2006 I received the unfortunate news that I had contracted the very debilitating neurological condition Multiple Sclerosis. Over the next four years I struggled to cope with the diagnosis both physically and mentally – it was easily the most difficult period of my life. 

In 2010 I brushed myself down and decided to fight back against the illness and try to take control back of my body and my life. With a three point plan in place centered around my diet and exercise program, I am glad to report that I have been getting stronger and stronger and I am now winning my MS war. 

Unfortunately my experience is not so unusual in this day and age as more and more people appear to be getting ill, which is a very worrying development. Your health is central to existence and if you are not well, everything else falls by the wayside.

Last week it was announced that sickness rates among Council employees in Northern Ireland in 2012/2013 have surged by 15%. Alarmingly council staff miss an average of 12 days a year because of ill health, and in one council area Carrickfergus, workers were missing for an average 17.2 days. This is a lot of time off and has serious implications for the organisation and in this case the public sector, in terms of finances and deliverability of services.

The fact remains that most of us take our health for granted.  In fact many are like myself in that it can take a diagnosis of a serious illness for you to completely change how you live your life. 

Shamefully new data released very recently is telling us that over 30% of Irish men and women are now either overweight or obese and the rate is increasing annually at a rate of 1%.  A recent study by McKinsey states that 2.1 billion people - nearly 30% of the world’s population are overweight or obese.  This is staggering and you can only imagine the amount of money this is costing the business community and governments through their national health services to pay for this problem. 

Many would agree that the business environment today is arguably more challenging than that of previous generations.  For you and your business to prosper I believe it is necessary to be on top of your game both physically and mentally.  You also need a focused and if possible fit, healthy workplace where your staff feel well, are energised and motivated to perform to their best ability so the company can bear the fruit and deliver on its business plan.  Unfortunately the data is telling us that this is not the case and the bottom line is this is costing businesses millions of pounds annually in lost revenue and profits.

The most successful people know they need to be mentally and physically fit and be able to push themselves. That's why many of them turn to intense exercise routines that push their boundaries, make them physically stronger, and improve their mental processing. The medical profession keeps telling us that exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning,

President Barack Obama has admitted to being a casual drug user and underachiever before he started running three miles a day. Vogue's Anna Wintour plays a tennis match every morning, and billionaire Richard Branson says he gets four additional hours of productivity every day by working out.

No matter where she is in the world, former secretary of state of USA Condoleezza Rice gets up at 4.30am to work out for 60 minutes to get her mind and body ready for the day and challenges ahead.  It’s no coincidence that some of the most successful businesses organisations on the planet are run by CEOs who are extremely fit and active.

My own personal fitness programme involves training five to six times a week.  My main focus for this dedication is that it is helping me beat my MS but also from a business perspective it keeps me extremely alert, creative and innovative.  It’s a great feeling and I have no intention of stopping training anytime soon.  A recent research project reported in the Journal of Small Business Management examined the following question; ‘Are entrepreneurs who maintain a fitness regime of rigorous exercise more effective in goal attainment as expressed by intrinsic and extrinsic rewards?’

The short answer is yes. The researchers investigated 366 small business owners to determine if the trade off between exercise and time devoted to managing their companies was worth it. Entrepreneurs who regularly engaged in rigorous exercise were better at attaining personal satisfaction, independence, and autonomy. Their companies also showed significant improvement in sales over companies, which were managed by non-exercisers!

So the moral of the story is that if you want your business to be successful and at the sharp end of the market you are operating in, make sure you help it by getting into a fit and healthy state yourself.  Granted it won’t guarantee you profits, but it will go some way to helping you stay fit and healthy which will allow you to change the direction of the sail if your business is not where you would want it to be.

 By Conor Devine MRICS, GDP Partnership

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