Obesity is one of the nation's greatest public health problems. According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 64 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese. Studies show that overweight Americans suffer medical ailments more often than their slimmer peers – from diabetes and hypertension to degenerative conditions like arthritis and many types of cancer.
And if that news isn't enough to get you on the treadmill chew on this: Studies also show that out-of-shape Americans earn less on average than their co-workers do. Not only can being fit cost you less in medical bills and insurance, it can earn you more on the job.
Al Mientus, an executive recruiter for Pinnacle Partnership, says employers are "significantly less inclined" to hire the overweight. "It has to do with an employer's perception of work ethic," he says. "Employers believe that if you were hard-working and ambitious you would stay in shape."
The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) states that only one in 11 top male executives is overweight. The message is clear: Those who are fit enough to climb are more likely to make it to the top of the ladder.
Academic studies provide further proof that being in shape can boost your earning potential. A University of Michigan study reported that the total net worth of moderately to severely obese women is as much as 60 percent below average. And a Cornell study by John Cawley, professor of policy analysis, found that overweight Caucasian women earn 9 percent less than those who are slim.
So will being out of shape keep you from getting a job? Another Cawley study indicates for mid-level and entry level jobs, "...there is no effect of weight on the probability of employment or sector of occupation." But carrying some extra pounds can hurt your chances of climbing the ladder. "At the executive level, being overweight will hinder your chances of employment," Mientus says.
If building a better body will help you build a better career, what steps should you take for a job-boosting physique? Mientus tells his clients to approach body improvement like they approach improving their job skills. Here are his suggested solutions:
Define your goals: "Just like identifying that you have to improve certain work skills, you must also identify what health skills you need to improve," Mientus says. Whether it's altering your diet or getting more aerobic exercise, even building muscle mass, it's important to set goals for improvement.
Schedule healthy activities: "You have to make appointments for exercise and eating right, just like you schedule time in your day for meetings or training that will boost your skills or network," Mientus says.
Find a mentor: "The best mentor is one that is at your workplace with you – someone who fits exercise into their work day," Mientus says. If you can't find someone at work who can lead by example, a spouse or friend is also a good choice. "Someone who will see you every day to help remind and guide you is very helpful," he adds.
Dress the part: Once you start to get in better shape, choose clothes that tastefully show off your new physique. "Fit people naturally look more confident, but good clothes that fit well accentuate that confident look," Mientus notes.
So on your next lunch break, grab a workout with the sales manager and then join her for an Evian and chicken quesadilla (hold the sour cream). Your thinner body, and fatter wallet, will thank you!
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