Why Bad Physical Health Can Hurt Mental Sharpness and Entrepreneurial Ambitions

I’m about to venture into somewhat treacherous waters, so feel free to yell and rant at me in the comments if you feel the need. But I am of a strong belief on this one, so I wanted to discuss it. I think you can guess the issue I’m going to talk about from the title.

If you’re a tech-oriented person like I am, you probably sit most of the day in a comfy computer chair with your giant two-screen setup with tons of code/docs on one screen and your web browser/IM/Skype on the other. At least, that’s how I am (it’s really quite efficient). But the point is that you’re sitting in a chair all day, instead of on your feet and using your body. Especially when there’s major projects due, new features to launch, or staring a new job, you put workouts and proper diet on the backburner to get things done.

And so the cycle of bad health begins.

As millions of people can probably tell you, skipping proper workouts and not getting balanced meals becomes a habit once you start. And restarting the good habits is tough as hell. The New Years Resolution phenomenon still astounds me. A week after New Years, tons of new people with sweatbands in the gym. Two weeks later, 90% of them never return to the gym.

Why do I bring this up? I can’t stress enough the impact of your physical health on your ability to be a productive entrepreneur. Especially when you are the head of your own company seeking venture capital, your health and appearance are important factors in how people judge you and how you get things done.

Just a few key points you probably already know, I but cannot stress enough:

1) Your physical health affects your mental sharpness.
This article on LiveScience provides a great overview of studies that show a huge link between exercise, proper diet, good health, and a healthier brain. Physical exercise is still mental exercise for the brain. Eating good food is going to send nutrients toward the brain. Bad food is going to starve the brain of those same nutrients.

It’s simple why the correlation exists – the brain is part of the body. You can’t fix a watch without fixing ALL of its parts, and you can’t keep a body healthy by exercising only one part of it. Programming does not count as a cardio exercise, sorry.

The opinions and impressions people have of you are always going to be shaped by your appearance
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is a great book on this subject. It’s sad but true: the taller and thinner you are, the more promotions and money you can expect to make. Most people don’t do it on purpose, but if there’s two people with exactly the same proposal, who are they going to favor? Yes, the more attractive one. So do yourself a favor and make sure that you can win that tiebreaker.

Bad health decreases your bottom line and investment capability

There’s a reason health insurance is so expensive – health care for an ailing body is expensive. You’re spending less on your new idea and more on your new pain medication. See where the money is going?

Persistent confidence is a major key to successful entrepreneurship

Not just confidence, but confidence that can take a beating. Your idea is going to be berated, judged, shot down, burned, and insulted over and over again as an entrepreneur. If your confidence cannot take that beating, your’e in the wrong arena. There’s a direct link between your looks, your health, and your confidence. If you’re already in self-doubt because of your body image, your confidence may not be able to hold under the entrepreneurial pressure.

The issue of health for entrepreneurs is a personal one for me. A year and a half ago, June 2007, I weighed over 200 pounds. While not a fat kid, I was chubby and round. During that summer, I committed to putting off the weight and getting in shape for my health, my self-confidence, and the satisfaction of proving I could actually do it. By August, I was in the 170s. Today, I range in the low 160s with a toned and balanced body and a great deal of added confidence. It’s also proven to me that I can get things done once I’m in the mindset.

I know that a lot of people have genetics that hurt their health and their bodies, and little can be done about it. But that’s different than not actively trying to eat healthy and not putting in periodic work-outs. A good workout or two a week or replacing that damn soda with a glass of water and a cup of raspberries does wonders for your life. When you’re consistently working on improving your health, you can feel the results, even if the results aren’t immediately apparent at the waistline.

So if you’re an entrepreneur or if you just want to better your life, do yourself a favor and do the little things to improve your health. All I ask is for you to not ignore the connection between physical health and your productivity and mental health.

Here’s a random assortment of health articles to get your started: