Staying Active to Better Mental and Physical Health
June is Men’s Health Month.
“When I lace up my running shoes and head out for a run or bike ride, I’m making as much of an impact on my mental health as on my physical health,” said Executive Vice President, Sales and Chief Transformation Officer Dave Stepanek. “Running and cycling have carried me through many challenges throughout my life, including the painful time following my wife’s passing 11 years ago. Staying active is how I cope. It’s how I release stress. It’s how I work things out in my head.”
Exercise has also been important in Stepanek’s family life. When his kids were young, he coached his daughters’ soccer teams. He has done triathlons with his wife and children through the years. These days, he sees hiking with his grown children as a bonding adventure. When he visits his daughter in Utah, they always make time to hike and enjoy the scenery together.
He has turned to running and cycling for decades, and in recent years, started adding yoga and stretching to increase his flexibility.
“If I don’t stay active, I get irritable,” said Stepanek. “Exercise allows me to be an effective leader and it gives me the energy to keep up my momentum. The mood boost I get from physical activity makes a huge difference in my daily life, so I make it a priority. I need at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.”
One of Dave Stepanek’s favorite places he's hiked so far: The Grand Canyon.
Stepanek doesn’t like having a set schedule for being active. He plans how he will fit exercise in when he wakes up each morning. When he was in the Marines, he began each day with exercise, but these days, he prefers to work out in the evening and he’ll often head to the gym or exercise at home right after work. He enjoys cycling 40 – 50 miles on Saturdays.
“I try to keep a mindset of staying active throughout the day,” said Stepanek. “It’s not just about making sure I get a workout in, it’s about staying as active as possible all day. While I may need to be sedentary for certain tasks, I look for opportunities to move my body throughout the day. I make the effort to park far away so I can walk further wherever I go. I take the stairs when I can. The little things throughout the day add up. And most importantly, I don’t do things that aren’t fun to me! Walking, running, cycling, yoga – these are all enjoyable activities to me. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t continue to do it.”
Stepanek enjoys a good mix of music and quiet thinking time while exercising. “Sometimes I’ll listen to music while I’m running, but it’s also a great time to think,” said Stepanek. “I’ve had some of my best ideas while running!”
When he is listening to music, classic rock, Italian opera, Yo-Yo Ma and Nirvana are in his playlist. “Depending on my mood, I have a wide variety of favorites in my workout soundtrack,” said Stepanek.
He enjoys exploring on a bike and on foot, and has had countless adventures around the world where he actively explored magical settings. He counts hiking in Spain, France and the Grand Canyon as some of his favorite experiences.
“Exercise is so important for physical health, but I think the mental benefits are often overlooked,” said Stepanek. “Staying active keeps me in fighting shape – physically and mentally. I encourage anyone who doesn’t regularly incorporate exercise into their life to give it a try and see what a difference it makes. Whether it’s fitting more steps into your day, adding some yoga stretches to your morning routine, taking a fitness class, or joining a running club, being active can make a huge positive impact on your day and your life."
Dave Stepanek stays active with his daughter, Grace, shown at Clark Creek, Mississippi