Fitness / Unsplash

Business leaders and CEO have been encouraged to ditch their excuses and work on incorporating a more active lifestyle, as well as a healthier diet, into their daily routines.

Energy is one of the most valuable elements of life as a business leader. Those in high-stress environments need to perform consistently, and take the right decisions from a position of strength. An excellent way of harnessing this energy is to remain physically fit with a healthy mental well-being.

Following’s latest interview series, many of Malta’s top business leaders expressed their desire to be more active over the coming 12 months, noting that health is important in high stress jobs and helps in instilling a sense of inner discipline.

Following up on this, reached out to Fitness Trainer Karl Cortis, as well as Garnish Malta Co-Founder Aaron Buhagiar, to hear how their clients in the professional landscape manage to make time for adopting a healthy lifestyle, and how certain character traits that allow individuals to flourish in the world of work can be applied to adopting a consistent exercise routine.

Mr Cortis is an experienced Physical Education Teacher with a history of working at secondary and higher education institutions. He is also a Lecturer at Institute for Education – Malta and University of Malta, as well as a Fitness Trainer at I&J Fitness.

Mr Buhagiar co-founded Garnish Malta in 2020 with the aim to offer workplaces with a “one-stop solution for office catering,” providing fresh meals for employees. He is also Co-Founder of Fortify Meals, a meal-prep company that seeks to deliver nutritious and macro-balanced meals to customers, utilising guidance from nutritionists.

Both respondents stated that there is growing awareness among entrepreneurs and business professionals about the importance of health and fitness.

“Top entrepreneurs, especially those coming from a younger generation, place their health as a top priority. This trend is also seen on a more global scale, where various entrepreneurs have become renowned for their vigorous health habits,” Mr Cortis explained.

Karl Cortis / LinkedIn
Fitness Trainer Karl Cortis / LinkedIn

However, Mr Buhagiar clarified that consistently prioritising a healthier lifestyle “remains a challenge for many.”

“The demanding nature of starting and running a business often leads to long hours and high stress, making it difficult to maintain a healthy balance,” he said.

 He remarked that while some are squeezing in some time to go to the gym, playing some sport, or going on adventurous trips, being active and healthy is ultimately about “so much more than just these activities.”

“It’s about looking at health in a well-rounded way, like eating right, giving your mind a break, and making sure you’re getting enough sleep. Successful entrepreneurs often realise that their health is a vital component of their organisation’s success. By investing in their well-being, they enhance their productivity, creativity, and resilience,” Mr Buhagiar stated.

Over time, there has been a gradual shift where health is seen not just as a “separate task,” but as an “integral part of a successful business lifestyle.”

Despite these widely known benefits, business leaders still repeatedly say that they are too busy and don’t have enough time to exercise or to prepare healthier meals.

Mr Cortis said that while many are shifting their opinion about exercise and health, some still find it hard to set a regular routine. “Being busy is certainly true, especially during certain periods of the year,” he said.

However, when speaking to entrepreneurs, he tends to hear them stating that they are “always travelling, waiting to settle down a bit, feeling too tired in the evening, finding it very hard to start, or feel that they cannot go to the gym as it doesn’t fit their schedule.”

Aaron Buhagiar / LinkedIn Cropped
Garnish Malta Co-Founder Aaron Buhagiar / LinkedIn

“One habit which is common with most successful entrepreneurs is that of exercising early. By early I mean 5am or 6am. It is the time when no one will disturb you, especially if you set your phone on do not disturb and get the metaphorical toad out of the way before others have even started their day,” Mr Cortis explained.

Mr Buhagiar was in agreement, stating that the demanding schedules and high-pressure environments associated with leadership roles may lead to genuine challenges when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet. Despite this, he said that when business leaders say they are “too busy,” it is actually “a bit of an excuse.”

“Think about it. Managing time effectively is a key part of being a leader. So, shouldn’t this include making time for good nutrition? These days, there are loads of wait to fit healthy eating into a hectic lifestyle, such as meal-prep services, healthy ready-made meals, and quick, nutritious recipes,” Mr Buhagiar said.

He added that at the end of the day, it all boils down to whether they are set on making their health a priority. “So, while their busy lives are a factor, it’s probably more about how they’re choosing to prioritise their time,” he continued.

In addition to physical health, a healthier way of living presents countless other benefits to business leaders, especially in terms of handling different situations and tasks.

“The most evident one is a feel-good factor which you tend to keep for the rest of the day. It affects your decisions, relationships, and mood,” Mr Cortis said. Additionally, those who choose to exercise early on in the day will feel a sense of accomplishment which will carry on over the workday.

Building relationships is also a key part of fitness. Over the course of his career as a Fitness Trainer, Mr Cortis has seen many business leaders form connections and build relationships with others through sport and fitness.

Mr Buhagiar remarked that good nutrition and an active lifestyle provides individuals with a “profound sense of well-being” and a form of “self-respect and care” that contributes to a “happier, healthier life in more ways than just physically.”

“Eating healthier does wonders for our mental health. It’s not just about keeping your body fit, it’s about nourishing your brain too. Foods loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can significantly enhance cognitive functions, leading to an improved mood and a reduced risk of mental health issues like depression and anxiety,” he said.

On top of this, a healthy diet can also have a tremendous impact on sleep quality, Mr Buhagiar asserted. “Have you ever noticed how a heavy, unhealthy meal can disrupt your sleep? Well, eating right helps regulate your body’s natural rhythms, leading to a deeper, more restful sleep,” he added.

Additionally, nutritious meals can help sharpen up one’s focus and replenish their energy. Mr Buhagiar said that it may be tempting for business leaders to go for another coffee or choose a sugary snack, yet a healthy meal can actually provide “sustained energy” to keep one “alert and focused.”

This begs the question: Aside from nutritious meals, early workouts and discipline, what are some easy ways for business leaders to incorporate a healthier lifestyle into their daily routines?

Mr Cortis said that business leaders can opt to walk or take the stairs in between meetings, helping them get off their chairs and move around a bit.

Remaining committed to training regularly is needed, yet Mr Cortis said that ideally, this also includes having a trainer who has “already planned out your training schedule for you and makes sure you do it.”

“Treating your body the way you would treat your business would be a good mindset. Automate, prepare, build routines,” he explained.

During extremely busy days when one is stuck in front of a screen doing relatively repetitive tasks, business leaders can set a “focus timer,” splitting their work into different periods and getting some quick exercises done during intervals, such as push-ups and squats, Mr Cortis added.


Vincent Marmara / DOI - Alan Saliba

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