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Seven tips for busy executives to stay healthy

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab

Executives wanted: Must be able to climb to great heights, go the extra mile, sprint to the finish, push for results, hit the ground running, do the heavy lifting, tackle the situation head on, and swim with the sharks.

Today's executive can't rely on an MBA alone to survive and thrive in a fast paced global economy. Physical fitness, stamina and resilience have become the new must-have skills. Leaders need to do more than just walk the talk, they must walk the wellness walk.

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Increasingly, leaders are expected to be on top of their game, but the constant demands can wreak havoc with their health and well-being. Increased work pace, longer days, travel, working across different time zones, and the pressure to stay connected 24/7 has the potential to create wear and tear on both individuals and teams.

Executives who walk the wellness walk will see dividends for themselves and their organization that reach far beyond the bottom line. Practise the following seven habits and see the positive impact on you, your family and your team.

1. Get 7 to 8 hours sleep. If you are low on energy, gaining weight and grumpy, chances are you aren't getting enough sleep. One night without sleep, or several nights with too few hours of sleep, leaves you driving as if you are legally drunk at a blood alcohol content of 0.08.

2. Eat breakfast daily. The purpose of eating breakfast is to give your body some much needed energy after a long night of sleep. You want to "break" the "fast." Including protein such as Greek yogurt, eggs or cereal with milk will keep you energized for three to four hours. Start packing a healthy lunch and include a small mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks such as roasted almonds and a piece of fruit.

3. Manage stress. Take wellness breaks throughout the day to recharge and encourage your team to do the same. Leave work at a reasonable hour and let others know you have a life beyond work. They will take note and do the same. Take your well deserved vacation and try to stay unplugged as much as possible.

4. Exercise daily. If your team sees you making fitness a priority, they will follow suit. That could mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator, going for a walk or run midday, encouraging your department to take a stretch break. Another way is to walk and talk. Get out of the boardroom and host a walking meeting. This will stimulate blood flow and get the creative juices flowing. Keep a pair of running shoes under your desk and walk after lunch or at break times. Go for a walk with the family after dinner to reduce screen time.

5. Eat 7 to 8 fruits and vegetables each day. People who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables have a significantly lower risk for cancer, heart disease, obesity, hypertension and diabetes. They are also slimmer. Managing your weight will help you manage your life. Treat your team to some fresh fruit at your next meeting.

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6. Practise gratitude. We can get so caught up in the thrill of the next deal and achieving targets that we forget to recognize the efforts of our team along the way. Take time to show thanks. No one has ever faulted their employer for giving too much praise.

7. Stay connected. Social connections can strengthen our immune systems, lower rates of anxiety and depression and improve our self-esteem. Connecting with people makes us happy, which in turn keeps us healthy. Get out from behind your desk and give your employees some face time. Don your sneakers and golf shirt and show up to the company BBQ. Combine fitness and 'fun raising' by forming a team and running or cycling for a cause. Your employees will be proud on many levels.

As the pressure heats up at work, leaders need to protect their personal and family time and encourage their teams to do the same. 'All work and no play' is not sustainable or desirable for today's leaders. This fall try a new mantra – 'Leave work and get out and play.'

Sue Pridham is co-president of Tri Fit (@trifitca), a developer of wellness programs to enhance health and performance in the workplace.

Want to take the pulse of your stress level at work? Take the Globe Careers' Your Life At Work Survey.

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