Let’s face it: We’re all concerned about our pockets and how to fatten them up through career advancement and promotion, but don’t let the countless hours spent gaining more knowledge, hustling to make that next sale, and coming up with the most innovative got to market strategy for a new product negate hours spent focusing on fitness. There is a remarkable degree to which exercise, diet, disease and career mobility are linked.
Your career and lifetime earnings can take a major hit due to an unhealthy lifestyle. A World Health Organization (WHO) study states that 3.2 million deaths annually can be attributed to a lack of physical activity. To put this number into perspective, this is nearly four times the number of people who die in traffic accidents.
Dr. John Whyte, vice president of health and medical education at Discovery Channel and author of Is This Normal?: The Essential Guide to Middle Age and Beyond, provides insight on how your health impacts your pockets, and shares tips on balancing career and health.
How does improving health and fitness and provide individuals with a better shot at career advancement?
Dr. John Whyte: In this society, biases and stigmas can be hard to escape. When it comes to fitness, it can cut both ways: Just like people can form opinions about the seven-day-a-week gym rat, the same can be said about those who struggle with weight.
All you have to do is turn on the TV to know how popular culture paints a picture of people based on their physical fitness. It sometimes portrays people who are overweight or obese in a way that isn’t flattering or very fair. It’s wrong, and we need to work against it, but it still exists. More importantly, however, we often start to have major career advancements at the same time we are at risk of developing health conditions such as heart disease and high cholesterol. By being healthier, you will have less sick days as well as be on your A-game more often.
What role does health or fitness levels play in one’s job marketability?
We all work with people of varying levels of physical fitness, and so to be clear, I think it’s hard to say that, in the end, your marketability is based on whether or not you lead a healthy lifestyle.
Although we’re told not to judge a book by its cover, in the setting of a job interview, a first impression can make an enormous difference, and we live in a culture that, whatever we think of it, seems to look more favorably upon those who are physically fit. If that affects the opinion of someone looking to hire, it stands to reason it could make a difference when choosing between otherwise qualified candidates.
Are obesity levels in the African-American male community having an impact on employment?
We know that obesity levels are rising at an alarming rate in this country, and we also know that the rates are higher among African Americans than any other ethnic or minority group. Furthermore obesity is directly related to the rise in diabetes, especially in African Americans. With these conditions come problems with mobility, mood, and memory—all important for successful employment.
By not maximizing one’s health, one is minimizing opportunities for employment. Now it is true that we have a significant number of important disparities in health care that need to be addressed. We know that there are racial and ethnic differences in the number of people who are overweight and obese, and we also know that their access to medical care as well as access to healthy foods must be improved.
Another important factor is sleep. An Harvard School of Public Health study has found that black workers—particularly black professionals—are more likely than whites (43% vs. 26%) to experience “short sleep” (under seven hours a night), which has been linked with increased risk of occupational injuries, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and premature death. This is important because those interviewing for a job need to present their best foot forward when and look refreshed and healthy.
What impact, if any, does regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle have on lifetime earnings?
Although you wouldn’t necessarily think it, there are some studies that seem to show there may be an earnings ‘penalty’ for those who are overweight or that people who are obese make less money as a whole. Again, it’s difficult to make a direct link between physical fitness and earnings potential, but given all of the biases we’ve discussed, I think it’s all the more reason to consider adding a fitness routine to the other items in your weekly planner.
Daron Pressley (@daronpressley) is an entrepreneur and former Fortune 500 sales and marketing executive who has been featured on outlets including Fox45 News, Black Enterprise magazine, and The Washington Post. Knowledgeable in marketing and branding, Pressley works with professional athletes, organizations, and individuals to develop strategies to create, build, and grow brands. As a speaker Daron has reached over 20,000 students, and provides dynamic insights on leadership and branding via his Website, DaronPressley.com.