Leadership the key to improve health and wellbeing
Fitness Australia CEO Lauretta Stace speaks about the value of corporate health and the roles CEOs play in establishing proper health practice.
There are many benefits associated with being a CEO. You are in a leadership position. You have responsibilities and challenges to tackle. You have the ability to transform things, set goals, take action and influence outcomes. You have the opportunity to help others build their capability and achieve their goals. In short, you have power and influence.
As a fellow CEO, what I would like to propose is that we, as business leaders, use this power and influence to make more meaningful, widespread and lasting improvements to the health and wellbeing of society. Where does this start from? It starts with you!
In the modern economy, most of us are living fast-paced lives that are largely centred around work. But is this really serving the health and wellbeing of our society?
As a CEO of a rapidly growing and fast-paced industry association, I know what the typical day holds for an executive and it’s often a 24/7 phenomenon. Commuting, traffic, meetings, emails, phone calls, tasklists, people to see, things to do, goals to achieve. We seem to be increasingly busy at work and there are more and more demands placed on our time. Do you ever find yourself checking your mobile device at bed-time and then worrying about something that you read for hours into the night? Do you spend your ‘time-off’ thinking about or worrying about work?
Whilst it’s great to be challenged, to achieve results and success, to be considered diligent and hard-working, there is no doubt that the fast pace of work-life is contributing to poor health in our society. As business leaders, we have a responsibility for the health and wellbeing of those around us, but all too often we put others first and forget about ourselves.
Over 60% of Australian adults are inactive or insufficiently active to achieve a health benefit. The incidence of non-communicable chronic diseases is increasing at an alarming rate, often due to poor lifestyle choices. Lack of physical activity and physical fitness is contributing to a range of mental and physical health issues.
Recently, I came across this insightful opinion piece from Dr David Kratz in the Huffington Post:
“If only we could manage our weight and our health with at least as great and reliable a ROI as we can get by managing our money. We could, if we choose to use what we know, eliminate 80 percent of our lifetime risk of chronic disease. The grim landscape of modern epidemiology is not for want of knowing – it’s for want of doing. It’s about cultural priorities. If we treated wealth like health, most of us would passively anticipate bankruptcy at midlife as a rite of passage, and then deal with the consequences. Heart disease and diabetes are more preventable than bankruptcy – but millions upon millions get them anyway. That’s a little odd.”
Odd indeed! In my own experience, I realised a few years ago that to be the best that I can be, for my family, my employer, my team, my career, I had to put my own health and wellbeing first. Why that took me almost 50 years to understand is beyond me, but I’m certainly not alone. So I embarked on a mission to improve my health through a more consistent approach to regular exercise and healthy eating. I now have more energy, less feelings of stress and anxiety and am physically fitter than I have ever been before. This has also translated into having a greater sense of purpose and achievement, so my self-esteem and confidence has been boosted. And guess what? It doesn’t take a massive change to your lifestyle to achieve this result.
I now see this as both a leadership and an issue of organisational culture. In my workplace, we have sent a clear message that everyone’s health and wellness is a priority, so it has become an issue of cultural significance. By looking after my own health and wellbeing, and supporting others to do the same, I am sending a strong signal to everyone around me about my own priorities and the value that this brings to the workplace and to life in general.
So, as CEOs and leaders, let’s not settle for midlife health bankruptcy. Let’s tackle this issue head-on, take care of ourselves and do our bit to make Australia a fitter, healthier nation.
Lauretta Stace is Chief Executive Officer of Fitness Australia.