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The Difference Between Being Physically Active and Exercising

exercise for stress reduction

The Difference Between Being Physically Active and Exercising

When patients first see me, I ask a number of questions one of which focuses on exercise.

“I golf on weekends.”
“I use the stairs at work.”
“My job keeps me moving all day.”

Perfect. But there’s a difference between being physically active and investing in cardiovascular exercise. People who enjoy relatively good health can benefit greatly from 3-4 hours a week of exercise that raises their cardio rate, peaking at approximately 80% of their maximum heart rate. In other words, if you don’t feel out of breath or work up aa good sweat, your body is not participating in a real exercise routine.

An optimal workout combines cardiovascular conditioning (aerobic) with resistance training (anaerobic) to achieve the best benefits for the body, including tissue repair, weight control and muscle toning. There are so many unnecessary exercise products and fitness programs advertised today that I take time with each of my patients to outline a simple routine that can fit into their schedules.

Understand that fitting 3-4 hours of exercise into your weekly plan is not just one “challenge.” It’s important to recognize your body’s optimal hour for exercise, based on its own unique metabolism. Some people find that their body’s optimal hour for exercise is in the afternoon, while others prefer evening workouts.

As I rule, I try to encourage patients to opt for the morning, because this is when our bodies get their daily flush of cortisol, which diminishes in the afternoon, leaving us with less motivation. (And you thought you were just making it up!) If we exercise first thing, we get the benefit of an energized, oxygenated and more flexible body as we enter our day. We are also able to work off some negative stress.

For most people,  it only takes a week or so to adjust to going to bed a little erluer each night to rise earlier in the morning. Moreover, the self-discipline entailed in sticking to a regular exercise program tends to carry over into other areas of our lives. In fact, everyone I know who’s developed this healthy habit not only feels better physically, but feels better personally regarding him or herself.