After 15 flights of stairs, the only way is up with a healthy approach

Life is a climb, one way or another. And the truth is that we are always either going up or going down. The problem is that too many of us do both at the same time.

Life is a climb, one way or another. And the truth is that we are always either going up or going down. The problem is that too many of us do both at the same time.

For decades my health went backwards while my business took off. It took me 65 years to work out that keeping fit is a good idea. And that only occurred when I realised I couldn't maintain one without the other. My business needed me in better shape and my health had to be supported by a successful career.

And as many of us know, it all becomes much more critical once we pass the half-century. This is true for people as well as for businesses.

So a few years ago I started on a new regime.

The first step on my trek was lap-band surgery. Within a couple of days I was out in the park at 5.15am with Marty the trainer, rather than starting the day with hot buttered toast and BlackBerry phone calls.

"That would give me indigestion," Louise says. But it didn't take long before it was my competitors who were choking on their breakfasts, as the business started to accelerate with a much lighter driver at the wheel.

I often wonder where those 70 kilos went. They are certainly not lying in pools of sweat in designer gyms, where the principal exercise is following the parade of lurid tights with 180-degree head swivels.

My aerobic exercise is climbing flights of stairs. In the beginning it was two steps forward and one step back as my poor old knees creaked and buckled, but it's just amazing what can happen if you don't retire hurt.

Earlier this year, I notched up 15 flights of stairs. Last week, three days after my "retirement", I was setting out for the 16th flight when the phone rang and I got offered a job.

So active life goes on and I am honoured to become the chairman of Free TV, the organisation that represents Australia's commercial television licence-holders.

These are seriously competitive people who know how to fight between each other and with the big advertising companies. I should know. I ran the biggest three days before they offered me the job. Perhaps I hadn't offended them after all. "Not likely," says our researcher Charlie. "You've offended them all equally."

Whatever the case, we all know that television has been the most important communications medium for the past 50 years, and frankly I love it. My working life began in 1959, three years after the current Nine boss's dad, Bruce Gyngell, spoke the magical words "good evening and welcome to television".

Since that first grainy black-and-white image flickered in lounge rooms around Australia, the biggest events of our country's life have been viewed and relived by almost every family in the nation. Nothing has been more unifying for our country. Who will ever forget the opening of the Sydney Olympics, or Australia II crossing the line, or the ceremonies that marked the birth and death of beloved members of the royal family?

Despite the rapid rise of online media, Australians still spend 21 hours a week with television and its future is bright. As I have found personally, reports of its imminent passing are often premature. Just look at what was said about the future of radio after TV burst on to the scene.

The new age of free TV is just beginning. As well as the time-honoured role of free TV providing essential news, telling great Australian stories and giving world-class coverage of our much-loved sports, our commercial stations remain the most important means of brand building for businesses in this country.

And there are many innovations in the pipeline for things such as "catch-up" TV that mean we'll never have to miss our favourite shows.

It's always a bright future if we stay fit. And you know after climbing 15 flights of stairs what is ahead - more stairs, and even better views and viewing.

Harold Mitchell, AC

Related Articles