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Thoughts from Rho’s CEO: Exercise Makes You Healthier, Happier, and Smarter

Posted by Brook White on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 @ 09:47 AM

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Russ HelmsThe following article comes from Rho’s CEO Russ Helms who would like to share some thoughts on topics that he sees as important to Rho and our business.

Exercise is both something I enjoy and something that I believe is very important, and I’ve set out to convince our employees that it should be important to them, too.  Some of you may wonder why I think it is important to convince our employees that exercise is important.  The first reason is that I care about our employees, and believe they will be happier and healthier if they stay active and fit.  The second reason is that their health and happiness are good for Rho.  Research shows that exercise makes you smarter, improves your leadership skills, and enhances your decision making capabilities—all of which are of direct benefit to Rho.  There is also a direct financial benefit to Rho in the form of lower healthcare costs and reduced employee absenteeism from illness.  

There is substantial evidence that exercise is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health.  Check out this video, which makes a very compelling case for the health benefits of exercise, even when that exercise is minimal (e.g. walking your dog for 30 minutes a day).  Exercise has been shown to be effective in managing and treating a wide range of health issues and illnesses.  That includes some you probably expect, like diabetes and high blood pressure, and it includes some you might not expect, like depression, bone fractures in women, fatigue, and likelihood of death from all causes.  

For myself, I have come to recognize that getting plenty of exercise is one of the best investments of time I can make toward being a better leader.  Aerobic exercise has been demonstrated to improve all areas of “executive function” in the brain, which includes things like concentration, impulse control, foresight, and problem solving.  Exercise reduces stress and increases happiness.  I carry a lot of responsibility which can be emotionally trying and exercise makes me better equipped to deal with that challenge.

Treadmill deskI have also come to recognize that our culture has made some mistakes in the way we’ve configured those traditional work (and school) environments.  This video shows how the physical environments we have created for working and learning are counterproductive to many of our goals.  Sitting quietly for long periods of time reduces creativity and productivity, and by itself has been shown to be hazardous to your health.  As a company, we are looking for ways to make some positive changes to our environment by making it easier to be physically active during the work day.

So, GET MORE EXERCISE!  It doesn’t have to be a lot.  If you currently don’t get any exercise, 30 minutes twice a week can make a huge difference.  I am also encouraging our employees to be more active at work.  When they have something to read, they can make use of one of the new treadmill desks.  We encourage people to take the stairs to and from meetings on different floors.  We encourage co-workers who need to have a conversation to do it over a game of ping-pong.  Informal team meetings can happen while taking a walk outside rather than sitting in a conference room.  It doesn’t matter how you do it, but I strongly encourage everyone to get moving!

[A postscript from the lawyers: Regular exercise is encouraged by Rho but is not mandatory.  The type of physical activity in which you engage is, of course, your personal decision.  Each person has individual health needs, and you should consult with your doctor before engaging in any type of physical activity.]