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Exercise to beat the stress

03 August 2012
Exercise to beat the stress

Inspired by our Open Minds campaign, hotelier Neil Kirby says keeping both mind and body fit helps cope with the rigours of a career in hospitality

Life in the hospitality industry is undoubtedly stressful. It means long days and unsocial hours with many demands, which can make it difficult to relax when off duty and can lead to health problems if people don't look after themselves. Having been in the hotel trade for 45 years now, and still working 98 hours a week, I think I have the solution: running.

Running not only keeps the body fit, but the mind too. When I bought my hotel in 2005 I discovered there was a massive difference between being a general manager and a business owner, and my stress levels tripled. Running has kept me sane.

For many years I trained with Sir Rocco Forte and was his running partner in eight marathons - you only have to look at how well he has done to see the health benefits. Now aged 67, he is still competing in triathlons.

Having run 30 full marathons, I've managed to raise over £240,000 for various charities, so not only does running keep you physically fit and free from stress, but it's possible to help others at the same time.

My father, George Kirby, was a champion boxer and in June this year celebrated his 100th birthday. He is still very fit for his age. When I asked him the secret of his longevity, he replied, "Health, money and sex… in that order." He insists that the most important thing is exercising and keeping your body in good shape.

It saddens me to see so many instances of suicide in the industry, particularly among the young, who become overburdened by the pressure of the job, financial restrictions and the strain of long hours. Stress in this industry is unavoidable, but it doesn't have to turn into depression. Before turning to drugs, jumping off a cliff or reaching for a gun, just consider looking after your body and you will find that it does wonders for the mind.

Any kind of physical exercise before or after work - whether it's going for a run, a game of squash or just a brisk walk - enables you to let off steam and release tension. It can, literally, mean the difference between life and death.

Neil Kirby is the owner of the Langham hotel, Eastbourne, East Sussex

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