BAMers in Shape? The Ups and Downs of Staying Physically Healthy

In our series on BAM Endurance, we are discovering how BAMers don’t just survive, but thrive for the long-term. As well as keeping their companies in good financial shape, how do BAM practitioners themselves stay in shape and pay attention to nutrition, sleep and exercise. We asked 12 BAMers about the main challenges to their physical health and what habits and resources keep them going.

The Challenges

Here are the challenges to physical well-being that were commonly mentioned by BAM practitioners:

Long Hours and Constant Pressure

Long working days and difficulty taking breaks is a very real threat to physical health, especially in the long-term. This kind of relentless schedule is almost par for the course for an entrepreneur in start-up phase. However the long-term sustainability of ‘burning the candle at both ends’ should be seriously considered.

Physically the amount of hours spent in a startup that often exceeds 60 hrs per week is challenging. Growing a company is always a constant battle. My experience is that when you are in the middle of it you are devoted and full of energy, but of course in the long run you pay the price. I need to be certain that this is what I am supposed to do, to make it worth the cost. Every one of us are burning down our candle for something and that is okay. We just want to know it is the right thing! – HS, Europe/Middle East

Time pressure for exercise makes it challenging, and living in a hot and tiring climate. Taking meaningful breaks is difficult because of our inability to step back from work completely for more than about 4 to 5 days in a row, because of business pressures. – MH, Asia

The greatest threat to physical health is to work too much! The need is so great, that you don’t stop to think. My task was to establish a network of Christian bookstores. After five years we had a distribution center and 23 stores (all private), but it damaged my back to carry all those boxes for all those years. Arthritis is our companion since then. – Hans, Angola/Brazil

A Stressful or Harmful Environment

The physical environment around can make good exercise, sleep and nutrition a challenge. There might be pollutants or hostile territory that make going out for a run virtually impossible. Harmful environments damage health, but also take an emotional toll because of the constant background stress of living in that place.

Political instability in Haiti makes it hard to stay healthy. Running or normal outdoor exercise is not very common. The environment is not very clean, with dust, uncollected trash and sewer system malfunctions, is not good for health. The stress of living in an environment that has limited access to medical care is also very frightening. The body needs a certain level of sanity to properly function and balance daily life! – Daniel, Haiti

We lived for two years in a poor area where the roads, and power supply, and noise levels were high. We have since moved. – MH, Asia

Lack of Exercise Facilities

Access to good places or contexts for exercise will vary enormously from context to context, but often a preferred form of exercise is not available and BAMers must adapt their habits or find low tech, easy ways to stay in shape.

The challenges are a lack of easily accessible sports facilities, not being able to play my favourite sports, and having to learn to enjoy running alone. Up until recentlyI would run around a small patch of land which is 2 minutes walk from home. Now  the streets are no longer really safe so I’m looking at using the gym regularly. – MH, Asia

I like to jog outside on a regular basis, but pollution and safety doesn’t allow for that where we live. Finding alternative ways to exercise or alternative places to run have been a battle that I often lose. – M., Middle East

Sleep Deprivation

Some of the BAMers we asked do not live in restful places! Noise and heat can make sleeping well tough. Others travel frequently leading to poor or inconsistent sleep quality. Anxiety and stress can also be a source of disturbed sleep.

By the grace of God, my wife and I both enjoy good health but I notice that my sleep is interrupted most nights. I am praying that I will get back to being able to sleep all through a night. – Duncan, India

Traveling its easy to get off schedule. Its both people pressures and frequent time zone changes that interrupt sleep and natural rhythm. Sometimes when traveling for speaking or consulting I am put in people’s homes instead of hotels. While it is lovely to get to know people, it is wearing and I’m most often put in the children’s rooms where the beds are not very good. After the last trip it has taken me months to get my back in shape and pain free. I need to take better care of myself. – NH, Asia and USA

Inconsistent Food Choices

Lack of choices of fresh, nutritious foods can be a real challenge in some places. In others poor food hygiene poses a serious threat! For others constant travelling and hospitality lead to the opposite problem of overeating the wrong kind of foods.

My friends and I have gotten get sick quite a bit from the food so we learn ways to prepare food in a hygienic way or only go to certain restaurants that you know are safe to eat from. – Jacob, Nepal

For us, travel usually means more food, less healthy food and less exercise, gaining weight and generally being less healthy. The social side of our work often involves food, it is just a part of what we are called to do in being involved with people this way. This means we struggle maintaining a healthy weight! – James, Indonesia

There were not many choices of fruit and vegetables and often no time to have lunch, but my wife always tried to organize a healthy diet. – Hans, Angola/Brazil


These physical challenges are part of reality for many BAMers. In the face of these, how do practitioners stay healthy? Read Part 2: 10 Habits for Maintaining Physical Health: Tips from BAM Practitioners

With special thanks to all the BAMers who took time to give us input for this series.

Jo Plummer Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website. 


Join us for our BAM Endurance series on The BAM Review Blog, looking at principles and habits for long-term fruitfulness. Have your say on social media on this topic by following us on Twitter or Facebook.