A Google search for “CEO Marathon study” reveals a slew of articles talking about how marathon running CEO’s lead successful companies.
The study has been quoted in numerous blogs and articles since it was published. Now, let’s take a closer look at the abstract of the study (the first line will do).
This study finds a positive relation between CEO fitness and firm value. For each of the years 2001 to 2011, we define CEOs of S&P 1500 companies as being fit if they finish a marathon. The literature suggests that fitness moderates stress and positively affects cognitive functions and performance. Accordingly, we find the strongest effects on firm value in subsamples where fitness is most important, i.e., for CEOs with high workload, above median age, and above median tenure. Fit CEOs are further associated with significantly higher abnormal announcement returns in M&A bids for large, public, and cross-border targets, concomitant with high stress. Our findings can explain the importance of CEO fitness in the managerial labor market and the trend among CEOs to stay fit.
This is a classic example of the identification error – mixing correlation with causality. Here is an example of the kind of issues that this study might have: