How CEOs are working on health & fitness with a view to improving company performance

CEOs are increasingly seeking coaching to improve their physical and mental health with a view to improving their performance as a CEO and overall business performance. As such, they are hiring performance coaches with backgrounds in elite sports. For instance, former Cricket Australia performance coach Andrew May now works with CEOs of top Australian companies such as Westpac. 

In episode 193 of the Economics Explored podcast, Andrew spoke with Adept Economics Director Gene Tunny and Business Development Manager Tim Hughes regarding the coaching he provides top performers, including both CEOs and elite athletes such as Manly Sea Eagles footballers and new IBO World Boxing champion Tim Tszyu. 

You can listen to Gene and Tim’s conversation with Andrew on the Economics Explored website or via the embedded player below. 

Areas Andrew focuses on

Andrew focuses on five areas for assisting CEOs in achieving peak performance. These areas are:

  1. Operating rhythm–having a sustainable cycle of work and rest and recovery, including over the long-term (e.g. having a couple of weeks break after a 10 week stretch of hard work);
  2. Energy balance–removing things from your life or business that are draining your energy and then looking at ways of boosting your energy;
  3. Downregulation–being able to switch off from work when it’s time to rest so you can get a good night’s sleep, which, in technical terms, is referred to as psychological detachment and parasympathetic activation;
  4. Mental skills–doing mental activities and puzzles when you can so you stay sharp as you age and reduce the risk of dementia and other diseases; and
  5. Wearables–such as Fitbits, Garmins, or Whoops, so you can use the data to map progress and keep track of your performance. 

Is there an ROI to health and fitness?

In his conversation with Gene and Tim, Andrew notes:

“..some of the execs I work with who perform at a higher level, when you look behind the scenes, you’d be amazed at the detail at which some of these people have gone into understanding nutrition, and personalising their nutrition based on their profile. And they understand heart rate variability, they understand terms like vagus nerve.”

CEOs clearly see the benefits of health and fitness for themselves, but does this translate into better performance at work? Could there be an ROI for a company that requires its CEO to get a performance coach who will help them with their physical and mental health? 

There is emerging evidence that this is the case, although more research needs to be done. Among the interesting studies is a recently published study titled CEO Health in the Leadership Quarterly journal. The study finds that poor mental health in a CEO can detract from firm performance, with the study finding “a one standard deviation deterioration in mental health translates into a performance reduction of 6% relative to the mean.” 

Even more promising is a working paper from the Leibniz Information Centre for Economics & Centre for Financial Research (CFR), University of Cologne working paper titled Does CEO fitness matter? This paper finds that:

“CEOs’ physical fitness has a positive impact on firm value, consistent with the beneficial effects of fitness on, e.g., cognitive functions, stress coping and job performance. For each of the years 2001 to 2011, we define S&P 1500 CEOs as fit if they finish a marathon. CEO fitness is also associated with higher firm profitability and higher M&A announcement returns.”

It should be noted that this paper has yet to be published in a journal, so it has not been subject to the peer review associated with journal publication. Nonetheless, it is highly plausible that improved physical and mental health of CEOs translates into better firm performance. Across a broader range of workers, there is clear evidence of a link between health and productivity, as discussed in a paper by David Bloom and David Canning from the Harvard School of Public Health: Health, Worker Productivity, and Economic Growth

Published on 21 June 2023. This article was prepared by Adept Economics Economic Director Gene Tunny and Business Development Manager Tim Hughes, with input from Research Economist Arturo Espinoza. For further information please get in touch with us via or by calling us on 1300 169 870. 

Free Economic Updates

Subscribe to receive our monthly economic e-newsletter, packed with the latest insights, hints and tips from our leading economists.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.