The fit are better able to climb corporate ladder By JOHN BRILEY, The Washington Posthttp://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/living/health/14240380.htm Although corporate executives might seem to inhabit their own universe ("Johnson! Get me the ZIP code for Planet Wealth!") they face the same challenges in finding time to exercise as those who toil in the cube farm. But suits who do manage to exercise regularly, according to newly collated data, perform much better at their day jobs than their sedentary counterparts. The data were collected from thousands of executives who have attended corporate leadership seminars since the early 1990s at the Center for Creative Leadership in Colorado Springs, Colo. Participants completed questionnaires, as did their immediate subordinates and bosses. The researchers conducted health assessments on participants, gathering such data as cholesterol and triglyceride levels and resting heart rates. Researchers divided the participants into two groups based on their self-reports: exercisers and non-exercisers. The former included those who had been working out regularly for six months or more. The latter included those who had been inert for six months or longer, plus those who occasionally dabbled in activity. The key finding: Exercisers scored better than non-exercisers in all leadership categories, including credibility, leading others and interpersonal savvy. They also got superior marks for organization, productivity, optimism, dependability, flexibility, energy and staying calm. The exercise group also had significantly fewer health risk factors than non-exercisers -- even if they were literal, in addition to figurative, heavyweights. "That's the most interesting thing," says study author Sharon McDowell-Larsen, senior associate and exercise physiologist at CCL. "If you were a regular exerciser, even if you were obese, some risk factors were attenuated." Diastolic blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose dropped with increased exercise, regardless of whether participants were overweight. Example: Lean non-exercisers had triglyceride levels, on average, of 125; for obese exercisers, the average was 128 -- a negligible difference. "There is too much emphasis on exercise to achieve a certain body," McDowell-Larsen says. "It should be exercise to get fit." Jim Loehr, CEO of the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, which studies executive behavioral patterns, agrees. "Fitter equals healthier. All our data show that. Anything that affects one's ability to mobilize energy will have a big impact on their ability to perform at the highest levels." Non-exercisers listed "lack of time" and "work conflicts" -- sound familiar? -- as their main impediments to working out. But the data showed that exercising execs spent an average of 59 hours per week at work while the more sedentary group dedicated 57.6 hours to their jobs. Explanation? The CCL researchers wrote "One of the most important characteristics of regular exercisers is that they [make] exercise a priority."