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Does Your Health Determine Your Success?

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Does Your Health Determine Your Success?

For many of us, the motivation to work up a sweat, eat more vegetables and less pizza, prioritize sleep and manage stress is driven by the idea these actions makes us feel and look better. Another potential benefit? Some believe it may make you more successful.

This makes sense from a behavioral health standpoint, says Jessica Matthews, professor of integrative wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University and co-creator of the Master of Kinesiology in Integrative Wellness program. According to Matthews, the concept of “self-efficacy” — your ability to take action, achieve a desired outcome and endure in tough situations — plays a strong role in health and success.

“People with higher levels of self-efficacy tend to be able to adopt healthful behaviors and maintain them better than people with lower levels,” she says. “And if you have a strong self-efficacy to prevent illness and maintain your health, you probably have a strong belief in yourself in other aspects of your life.”

Need more reasons to focus on your health and wellness? Here’s how your healthy habits may help you at work, in your relationships and with your mindset.

THE LINK BETWEEN EXERCISE AND CAREER SUCCESS

Regularly going to your favorite boxing class or hitting the trails for a run could help you end up in the C-suite. In a preliminary study published in the Journal of Labor Research, researchers reported that working out at least three times a week led to a 6% higher pay for men and a 10% higher pay for women. Moreso, when British researchers looked at more than 1,000 promotions, they found the healthiest people were most likely to be promoted.


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This may be because exercise provides benefits that pay off in the office. Studies show sticking to a regular fitness routine may boost creativity and improve memory. And, according to a British study, office workers who exercise  are less irritable, show better concentration and are better able to handle stress. “Successful people make the time to work out because they realize that, ‘The more I take care of my health, the better I can serve my company and make an impact in what I do,’” says Matthews.

THE LINK BETWEEN DIET AND CAREER SUCCESS

Your commitment to sweating isn’t the only thing tied to work performance. What you eat may matter, too. In a 2012 study, people who ate an overall healthy diet were 2/3 less likely to experience a loss in productivity at the office compared to people who ate unhealthy diets. In other research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers also reported a positive connection between healthy eating and work performance.

THE LINK BETWEEN WEIGHT AND CAREER SUCCESS

Unfortunately, despite the rise of the body-acceptance movement and other positive body-image initiatives, weight stigma still exists, and the workplace is no outlier. Obesity has been found as a roadblock to being hired and may even keep qualified individuals from entering certain professions. Obese employees also tend to be paid less than their non-obese coworkers. According to a study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, this may be because obese individuals are seen as having less competence than people of average weights.

THE LINK BETWEEN HEALTH AND HAPPINESS

“Good health — both physical and mental — has been found to be one of the biggest determinants of an adult’s life satisfaction,” says Nick Powdthavee, PhD, professor of behavioral science at Warwick Business School. In a study published in February, researchers found that poor mental health is associated with very low life satisfaction, even when controlled for poverty and unemployment. In earlier research, scientists reported that, compared to poor physical health, poor mental health seems to have a bigger impact on happiness and well-being.

Still, as anyone who’s experienced the natural high after a hard spin class or lifting session knows, exercise boosts endorphins, elevating your mood. According to University of Vermont researchers, the post-exercise rush can last up to 12 hours after a 20-minute workout. Add in the stress-busting benefits of a good sweat session, and it’s easy to see how being fit may help you feel happier.

THE LINK BETWEEN HEALTH AND POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS

There have been several studies published about how positive relationships can lead to better health. “Relationships tend to help our health because they provide social and emotional support and buffer against stress,” says Mieke Beth Thomeer, PhD, sociology professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Relationships also provide a person who cares about you and your health and may encourage you to adopt healthier habits.”

But the egg may also come before the chicken in this instance. “I think health could lead to positive relationships,” Thomeer says. “For one, healthy people tend to have more time and energy to devote to improving their relationships. Dealing with a chronic condition — or poor health more generally — takes a lot of energy and resources from both partners, and this can cause a strain on the relationship. Additionally, healthy people may have positive coping strategies that would be an asset in a relationship.”

MAKE THE CONNECTION IN YOUR LIFE

Although the link between health and success exists, it also is individualistic. “How do you define success?” Matthews says. “What is meaningful to you is what matters.” And that goes for both success and your healthy habits, so keep your eyes on your goals, in the gym, at the office and in your life overall, and you can’t fail.

Written by Brittany Risher, a writer, editor and digital strategist specializing in health and lifestyle content. She loves experimenting with new vegan recipes and believes hummus is a food group. Connect with her on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

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  • David

    “… researchers reported that working out at least three times a week led to a 6% higher pay for men and a 10% higher pay for women.”

    Please stop spreading misinformation, correlation is not causation. It does not (necessarily) mean that doing exercise leads to success. What makes more sense is that succesful people have both the means and time to workout more.

    • jesseali

      Do you truly believe successful people have more time? My observation is the opposite. Successful people devote their lives to their work and have less time for family and friends.

      Of course, it totally depends on what you consider success.

      My workouts have taught me the value of numbers and consistency. Things I was never good at for work or workouts.

      Now I’m better at both, and the workout consistency and reliance on the math came before I was able to start porting it into my work.

      So, to me, it sounds pretty darn correct. We don’t know if the chicken came before the egg or not, but the correlation is enough to make me feel like I’m moving in the right direction.