Are You Fit to Climb the Corporate Ladder?

College degree? Check.
Professional resume? Double check.
Perfect health? Ah, not so fast.

What does your health have to do with your career? Plenty. Besides having the right skills and qualifications for your profession, you may also want to make sure you’re healthy—if you want to get ahead financially, that is.

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal showed that the healthier you are, the richer you are. Researchers found that healthy employees are more productive at work, earn more and spend more time in the workforce because they take fewer sick days. Employees in poor health, on the other hand, are more likely to be out of work for extended periods of time or forced into early retirement—two factors that reduce overall earning potential.

Research conducted by Professor Martin McKee and his colleagues at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine yielded similar results. They found that an employee's salary is dependent on some seemingly unconnected factors, such as height. Taller people earn more than those of average height. Apparently your adult height reflects your overall childhood health—meaning the healthier you were as a kid, the taller you are as an adult.

The High Cost of Poor Health
Employers have long recognized that healthy employees cost less. Absenteeism due to sickness (related to obesity and inactivity) is expensive and employers are now convinced that good employee health saves money in the end.

Sedentary employees spend 30 percent more days in the hospital than exercisers and the severely overweight are 48 percent more likely to have yearly medical claims of more than $5,000. Obesity currently costs U.S. employers more than $13 billion each year in lost productivity and sick days.

Fair or not, the size of your waistline is a threat to your career and being significantly overweight can even impact your ability to find a good job. Several studies have shown a pervasive discrimination against overweight employees—especially women—who are less likely to get promoted than their skinnier peers. Other research suggests that overweight employees are paid less than thinner ones, regardless of education and experience.

Good Health Pays Off
Along with taking fewer sick days, a healthy employee is more apt to demonstrate leadership characteristics, such as creativity and energy. This vibrancy is reflected in how leaders speak with customers, employees and investors. People naturally prefer to follow someone who is confident and energetic—two positive outcomes of living a healthy lifestyle.

According to a survey conducted by, 75 percent of responding executives felt that good physical fitness was critical for career success at the executive level. The same number of respondents also felt that being overweight was a serious career impediment. Gone are the days of liquid lunches and cigars for corporate managers.

Get Fit to Climb the Corporate Ladder
A healthy lifestyle may be more critical to your climb up the corporate ladder than you thought. Sacrificing your health and fitness so you can put in more hours at the office might actually backfire. Even the most devoted employees will experience diminished health if they are totally consumed with work.

Being fit and healthy gives you the stamina and the resiliency needed to perform your best. On-the-job accidents and low productivity are more likely if you are out of shape and tired. The Perrier Survey of Fitness in 1997 found that employees with a strong commitment to fitness felt less tired, more relaxed, more self-confident and more productive.

Make time to exercise moderately (two or three times per week), eat well, and get plenty of sleep to help maintain your health.  Even though it seems counter-productive to your career to take a break and go for a jog, caring for yourself will payoff in more ways than one. Better job performance, clearer thoughts, more creativity, and improved problem-solving skills all translate to better earning power throughout your career.