Full disclosure here. I might--might--be known to occasionally plop myself in front of a screen and do nothing but feed my face. Being a full-on couch potato every day, however, isn't a bright idea, and not just because of its negative health implications.

Sit around, seem less likable

As summarized by Simon Makin in a June article for Scientific American, researchers from the University of Montpellier in France conducted two survey-based studies in the 1990s: the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) and Midlife in the United States (MIDUS). People who took the surveys answered questions about their health and exercise habits. Researchers followed the participants and had them take the same surveys again roughly 20 years later.

When looking at the results, the researchers examined the "Big Five" personality traits, including extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness and neuroticism. Even after the researchers took differences in baseline personality and health into account, they found that those who weren't as physically active scored lower on all traits except neuroticism.

The results demonstrate that regularly getting your body moving has an influence on your personality. Who you are and how you behave isn't set 100 percent in stone, and you can shape yourself through the habits you go through every day. That's important for any entrepreneur or leader to understand, as successful business depends on seeming approachable and making or maintaining the connections for strong relationships. It suggests that coming across as the warm, cooperative partner other leaders want might be much easier if you simply get off your duff.

Why might activity help your personality?

Now, as Makin notes, the researchers don't know the exact mechanisms that drive their results. But scientifically, studies do show that exercise is wonderfully beneficial for the brain, including the production and release of endorphins that improve mood and feelings of wellbeing. And the better you feel, the more likely it probably is that you would want to socialize and entertain what others have to say.

From a personal perspective, though, as somebody who exercises every day, I also know that regular physical activity also teaches you powerful philosophical lessons that translate into your overall attitude. You learn, for example, that pushing yourself a little won't necessarily break you. You discover how to be self-aware, present in the moment and self-forgiving. All of those things slowly grow your confidence and ability to be emotionally intelligent with people. And generally speaking, confident, emotionally intelligent people are the ones others see as socially attractive. Couch potatoes might find it harder to learn and live based on these lessons, with the way others perceive them suffering as a result.

Importantly, this doesn't mean you have to join a gym, do marathons or crush others in Crossfit competitions. A walk around the park at lunch, 20 minutes of HiiT in your living room--even chasing your kids around the yard counts. You just have to do something as part of your normal routine, no copying anybody else required. Find something that challenges you, that helps you express yourself and brings you into the circle of others. Your body, mind and heart--and maybe even your company accounts--might all thank you for it.

Published on: Jun 25, 2018