An unhealthy lifestyle can decrease productivity, reduce creativity, increase absences from work, and negatively affect our moods and relationships. Are you living a healthy lifestyle that enables you to be a better leader? If not, when will you start?

Today’s post is by Helen Sanders, chief editor at

Being a leader requires hard work, efficiency, creativity, the ability to form and maintain relationships (i.e., people skills), persistence and dedication. However, when you’re living an unhealthy lifestyle, your ability to lead may be impacted.

Let’s dive into exactly how a poor diet and lack of exercise may affect the various skills and characteristics every leader needs.

An Unhealthy Diet Results in Decreased Productivity

As a leader, you need to be productive. Otherwise, your ideas will remain ideas for a very long time. So, how can you be more productive? Well, you can start by avoiding unhealthy foods—such as those which are high in fat, salt and sugar.

High-fat foods, like burgers, give us longer-lasting energy but require our digestive system to work harder. This reduces oxygen levels in our brain and causes us to feel tired and worn out. When we feel this way, we don’t work as efficiently as we could. This can potentially result in reduced profits and having to work longer hours (which means less time for planning ahead and other important activities). According to the WHO, adequate nutrition can raise national productivity levels by 20%.

It’s best to eat fruits, vegetables and foods containing healthy fats—such as nuts and fish. These will provide you with the nutrition you need for high energy, cognitive efficiency an overall better mood (more on this below).

A Lack of Exercise May Cause a Lack of Creativity

Creativity is an important skill for a leader, since they need to figure out new ways to solve problems, market their product or service and motivate their team. Unfortunately, when you’re unhealthy, your creativity suffers. The good news is that by changing your habits now, you will immediately notice a difference.

Studies have shown that creativity surges in individuals following an aerobic session. It’s recommended that you exercise regularly (at least four times per week) for the best results, though. One study found that those who did so performed better on creativity tests than those who did not.

Unhealthy Foods May Affect Your Mood and Relationships

Relationships are important for everyone, especially leaders. They need to be able to network, mentor and work with other individuals. But, if you’re constantly displaying negative moods, people will lose respect for you and will want to avoid being around you. You may not have thought about this, but food can affect your mood.

One study found that eating processed foods may lead to aggression and irritability. That’s because nutrient-deprived bodies cannot produce the hormones and chemicals required for clear thinking.

Being in a bad mood doesn’t only affect your relationship; it can affect your productivity, too. When you are in a bad mood, you may be unmotivated and take longer to get things done. In contrast, a good mood will allow you to focus, do your job with more enthusiasm and handle stress better. Research has also shown that a good mood is beneficial for those who may need to juggle different tasks at once or solve difficult logistics issues.  Clearly, a bad diet can affect your productivity and relationships in multiple ways.

So, instead of grabbing those French fries, pick up some baby carrots. Try to avoid fried foods and those high in sodium, sugar and saturated fats.

An Unhealthy Lifestyle May Lead To Increased Absences and Costs

For a leader to do their job, they need to be present. People depend on leaders to get their portion of work done and to guide others, too. An unhealthy lifestyle may lead to increased absences and financial costs.

Eating unhealthy foods and being sedentary leads to an increased risk of chronic diseases. When you are sick, you will likely stay home or may need to undergo expensive surgeries. This may result in a bad reputation in the workplace, as work may be left unfinished or others may need to cover for you. Businesses need to know they have reliable individuals working for them. Overall, they can suffer greatly without their leader.

The cost of unhealthy lifestyle adds up in the long run. In fact, the annual economic cost of obesity alone to business in the US, for either insurance costs, sick leave or other related payments, amount to  over $12 billion annually!

Do what’s best for you and your company—lead a healthy lifestyle, so that you can be a top-notch leader.

Helen SandersHelen Sanders is chief editor at Established in 2012, Health Ambition has grown rapidly in recent years. Their goal is to provide easy-to-understand health and nutrition advice that makes a real impact. They pride themselves on making sure their actionable advice can be followed by regular people with busy lives.

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Photo: Burger with fries by Marco Verch


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