The fittest thrive in the Darwinian competition of business, researchers say. They mean the physically fittest.
Business owners who keep a regular workout schedule, despite all the other demands on their time, wind up doing better in their jobs, a study says.
"In the rat race of business, the fit person wins," said Michael G. Goldsby, an assistant professor of management at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.
Goldsby and his colleagues wanted to see if small business owners did better if they worked out when they were not out working. They asked 366 entrepreneurs randomly selected from Chamber of Commerce directories in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky whether they ran or weight trained.
Most of the business owners, with an average age of 40, did neither. But 49 ran a few times a week and 23 did daily. Seventy lifted weights a few days a week and 25 lifted daily.
The researchers asked the entrepreneurs about the external rewards of owning a business - whether they were making as much money as they hoped to make, and whether they were providing for their families now and in the future as well as they wanted to.
They also were asked about what the researchers considered internal goals - the personal rewards in being your own boss, such as whether they were enjoying the challenge and felt they were growing in the job.
Exercisers generally felt they were doing better than non-exercisers, but the big benefits went to those who worked out daily.
Those who ran or weight trained a few times a week were about 4 percent more likely than non-exercisers to be making as much money as they had expected, the study found. But daily exercisers were about 14 percent more likely.
Similarly, exercisers who worked out a few times a week were about three percent more likely than non-exercisers to feel they were achieving personal satisfaction in their businesses, while regular exercisers were at least 10 percent more likely.
The study could not tell if exercise led to greater satisfaction in business, or whether people who could drive themselves to exercise also were hard-driving types who would be more likely to succeed in other activities including business, Goldsby said.
But Goldsby's suspicion is that doing exercise encourages traits that lead to success. Other studies have found that fitness improves endurance, and reduces depression. "If you are fit, it hopefully makes you more productive," he said.
Fit people also make a better personal impression. If people see you as fit, Goldsby said, "they make judgments that you are more productive in other areas."
The study on entrepreneurs fits a pattern shown in corporate executives.
Senior managers who were physically fit felt better able to handle the stresses of business, said Christopher P. Neck, an associate professor of management at Virginia Tech, who was not part of Goldsby's study team.
Neck thinks fitness leads to better business performance, but he said there are no studies to prove there is a cause-and-effect relationship.
An official of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce thinks the idea that businesspeople benefit from exercise makes sense. "Small business tends to be a very physically demanding way of working," said Giovanni Coratolo, director of small business policy. "Those small business owners are thinking and breathing their business, 24 hours a day."
The stresses of business accumulate, but exercise can reduce them, Coratolo said.
By Ira Dreyfuss