Are You Fit to Climb the Corporate Ladder?

College degree? Check.
Professional resume? Double check.
Perfect health? Ah, not so fast.

What does your health have to do with your career? Plenty. Besides having the right skills and qualifications for your profession, you may also want to make sure you’re healthy—if you want to get ahead financially, that is.

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal showed that the healthier you are, the richer you are. Researchers found that healthy employees are more productive at work, earn more and spend more time in the workforce because they take fewer sick days. Employees in poor health, on the other hand, are more likely to be out of work for extended periods of time or forced into early retirement—two factors that reduce overall earning potential.

Research conducted by Professor Martin McKee and his colleagues at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine yielded similar results. They found that an employee's salary is dependent on some seemingly unconnected factors, such as height. Taller people earn more than those of average height. Apparently your adult height reflects your overall childhood health—meaning the healthier you were as a kid, the taller you are as an adult.

The High Cost of Poor Health
Employers have long recognized that healthy employees cost less. Absenteeism due to sickness (related to obesity and inactivity) is expensive and employers are now convinced that good employee health saves money in the end.

Sedentary employees spend 30 percent more days in the hospital than exercisers and the severely overweight are 48 percent more likely to have yearly medical claims of more than $5,000. Obesity currently costs U.S. employers more than $13 billion each year in lost productivity and sick days.

Fair or not, the size of your waistline is a threat to your career and being significantly overweight can even impact your ability to find a good job. Several studies have shown a pervasive discrimination against overweight employees—especially women—who are less likely to get promoted than their skinnier peers. Other research suggests that overweight employees are paid less than thinner ones, regardless of education and experience.

Good Health Pays Off
Along with taking fewer sick days, a healthy employee is more apt to demonstrate leadership characteristics, such as creativity and energy. This vibrancy is reflected in how leaders speak with customers, employees and investors. People naturally prefer to follow someone who is confident and energetic—two positive outcomes of living a healthy lifestyle.

According to a survey conducted by, 75 percent of responding executives felt that good physical fitness was critical for career success at the executive level. The same number of respondents also felt that being overweight was a serious career impediment. Gone are the days of liquid lunches and cigars for corporate managers.

Get Fit to Climb the Corporate Ladder
A healthy lifestyle may be more critical to your climb up the corporate ladder than you thought. Sacrificing your health and fitness so you can put in more hours at the office might actually backfire. Even the most devoted employees will experience diminished health if they are totally consumed with work.

Being fit and healthy gives you the stamina and the resiliency needed to perform your best. On-the-job accidents and low productivity are more likely if you are out of shape and tired. The Perrier Survey of Fitness in 1997 found that employees with a strong commitment to fitness felt less tired, more relaxed, more self-confident and more productive.

Make time to exercise moderately (two or three times per week), eat well, and get plenty of sleep to help maintain your health.  Even though it seems counter-productive to your career to take a break and go for a jog, caring for yourself will payoff in more ways than one. Better job performance, clearer thoughts, more creativity, and improved problem-solving skills all translate to better earning power throughout your career.
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Member Comments

OH goodness. It is outright discrimination to treat some of short stature differently than a taller person. I am short. I had to work twice as hard to get ahead as some of my other colleagues. That happened to me a LOT. But once I 'proved my worth' by doing a good job, opportunities for advancement were a little less dicey to achieve. It's ashame that there are so many prejudices in this world.

Great Article!! Report
Good article. Report
This article reflects the culture in so many companies here in the US. Glad I'm near the end of my career! Report
Totally agree not to mention the COST of the corporate ladder isn't worth it for THIS guy., Had enough with politics, backstabbing and bootlicking. No thanks,. Report
I had the same reaction that SOUHAIT had. Correlation does not equal causation. Report
oy - what about the short bit???? There are races of people who are ALL short... don't they get a good job? (I'm tall, by the way). Report
This article fits in with age discrimination also , we all need to eat and pay bills . As we age we may not look as if we are in Shape but we might be under all that required Dress that perhaps one 's bust is bigger than the other and it might appear that busty or solid people are not in shape, can be deceiving, One size does NOT fit All. I can climb the Corporate Ladder better than the Executives in the physical sense but in todays market it does seem to boil down to the pretty people getting the well paid positions. Report
I want to make a comment here. I think this article is backwards. I don't think healthy people become rich. I think rich people are healthy. Why? They can afford it.

The fact is, if you are rich, you have the funds have a well rounded, happier, 'healthier' life. You can afford organic. You can afford produce. You can afford a gym membership. You can afford massages. You can afford high quality foods. And, better yet, you have a reason to do it all.

If you are poor or 'average', you cannot afford organic without sacrificing something else in your life. You will pick cheap processed food over produce because you need it to last and it will save you money. You might not find the excuse to fork over the money for a gym membership. Forget massages or any other added health programs. You can't afford high quality foods. And you probably feel like you don't have anything going for you, and therefore you don't 'strive' or work hard to make yourself healthy. Because what's the point? Plus, you are working your ass off at your current job (most likely doing 2 or 3 jobs and being paid only for one because the rich boss wanted to cut costs and put more work on you) and then at home. You can't afford a nanny. You can't afford a butler or a maid. You do it all yourself.

I'm sorry, but this is just my opinion. Report
Like so many other commenters said, replace "healthy" with "skinny" and you're good to go. I've lost count of how many times I've sat at lunch with my (99% male) colleagues and went over files of INTERNS (not even full-time, fully qualified employees but interns!) and they made disparaging, cruel and unnecessary remarks based on the photographs attached to the CV (they still do that in Germany). The ones who got the internship/job were always very skinny, conventionally beautiful women or the sons of members of the Old Boys' Club's local chapter.

It's hard enough being a woman banging on the glass ceiling, but having to look like a model while doing it? Really hard!

I'd also contest the managers=fit assumption stated in the article. Might be that the public figurehead fits that image, but I can almost guarantee that the behind-the-scenes powerbrokers are just a little paunchy and even worse in their regard of other humans than the fronts. At least from my experience and not inconsiderable observed sample size they are- as long as you're white, male, and your family name carries some significance your chances of getting in are a lot higher than even the smart model's.

The tall thing is true, though. I'm just a smidgeon taller than average (5'7"), and always accentuate it with the highest heels I can wear but most of the "men in charge" easily top 6' and would tower over me.

All in all, a depressing reminder of everyday life, if painted with slightly rose-colored glasses on. Report
I really do NOT care for the premise of this article- so only the young fit and thin people are deserving of decent careers and jobs?? For SHAME!! Report
Health issues have definitely affected my career. My weight was never really an issue, because I've never been that big, but I have several chronic health issues have affected my stamina, productivity, promotions and salary. Report
I disagree with this article, I am obese, but i luckly do NOT have any health issues. Soceity needs to stop labeling everyone. Yes i am overweight because i am lazy, life has gotten in the way, but i go to work everyday and have only had to go to the DR for my physical. Don't judge all overweight people. Report
I have to agree with CRIS7771's comment, "It's because of the youth-obsessed culture, that good looking people are promoted, not the other way around. " (I would also add "hired" to that). This has always been true; now they are simply using the excuse that overweight people are "unhealthy" or "less productive" to justify it. If they were really concerned about health costs or productivity, they could force employees to undergo a pre-employment physical, but how many do that? (Only once in my life so far, have I been asked to do that). Report


About The Author

Leanne Beattie
Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.