Forget what you think you know about exercise: Fitness secrets for time-pressed CEOs

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that executives should exercise more for the health benefits.

Exercise can not only improve overall health and help stave off disease, but it can also keep executives sharp, warding off mild cognitive impairment as they age.

But what may come as a surprise is that many are exercising the wrong way. Hours of running on the treadmill or slogging away on an elliptical offers little benefit. And, actually, it’s a waste of time executives don’t have, says Luke Carlson, a Vistage member and CEO of Discover Strength, a personal-training business that advocates strength training to promote health.

And the best way for time-pressed executives to gain those health benefits while effectively using their time is to understand what Carlson calls “essential exercise.”

Carlson says that getting down to essential exercise means stepping away from some long-held myths about fitness:

Don’t fall for the six-pack. Carlson offers a hypothetical: He and NFL running back Adrian Peterson are walking down a beach, both with their shirts off. You come across both men and ask them about working out. Most would probably ask Peterson first based on his appearance, but Carlson warns against that. “We don’t know if Adrian look like this because of his workouts, or if there’s a number of other variables that impact,” he says, noting that genetic predisposition may be a factor. Instead, Carlson urges executive to look at the science behind fitness to see what works for you.

Running doesn’t help you lose weight. Sorry, treadmill lovers, but cardiovascular exercise increases cardiovascular function and that’s it. Carlson cited a study in which half the group worked out on a treadmill while the other half didn’t. Both burned the same amount of calories.

Strength training does more than increase strength. Strength (or resistance) training provides all the aforementioned health benefits at a fraction of the time, Carlson says. In fact, two 30-minute sessions a week — with about 12 exercises per workout — is all that’s necessary to reap the rewards. “This constitutes essential exercise,” Carlson says. “Resistance training is medicine.”

Watch the full video to learn:

  • How to employ ‘intelligent exercise’ tactics
  • Why ditching the treadmill is a step in the right direction toward fitness
  • The most efficient way to reap the benefits of exercise on a tight schedule

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About Luke Carlson

Luke Carlson is the founder and CEO of Discover Strength. He is a practitioner, speaker, and author on the topic of strength training and evidence-based exercise programs.

Luke is an American College of Sports Medicine certified Exercise Physiologist and holds the unique distinction of being an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET). He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and a Master of Science in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Physiology from the University of Minnesota. Luke is a Vistage member and a Vistage speaker.

What is Vistage?

Vistage Worldwide is an organization designed exclusively for high-integrity CEOs and executive leaders who are looking to drive better decisions and better results for their companies. Our members — 23,000 strong in 20 countries — gather in trusted, confidential peer advisory boards where they tackle their toughest challenges and biggest opportunities. Leveraging the Vistage platform, our members have demonstrated the ability to refine their instincts, improve their judgment, expand their perspectives and optimize decision making. CEOs who joined Vistage grew their companies at three times the rate of the average U.S. company, according to a 2015 analysis of Dun & Bradstreet data. Learn more at

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