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Physical Fitness from a Physician's Perspective

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At times trying to find the time and energy for exercise can be frustrating. But as life ebbs and flows, it is important to prioritize your physical activity. When it comes to adding exercise into busy lives and schedules, Cooper Clinic Preventive Medicine Physician Riva Rahl, MD, advises her patients that they do not have time NOT to exercise.

While people often use the words “exercise” and “physical activity” interchangeably, they are actually quite different. Physical activity means fitting being active into the framework of your life and busy schedule, whereas exercise means intentionally performing a physical activity to maintain or achieve health with certain fitness and well-being goals in mind.

Dr. Rahl encourages her patients to look for and embrace the opportunities to build activity into their lives. Physical activity aids in productivity, efficiency and energy, and going to the gym isn't your only option. While this may be helpful, enjoyable and fit one’s needs and schedule, simply taking a walk, running errands, parking further away and stretching at home are practical ways to incorporate physical activity in your day that don’t require a gym membership. 

Balancing the responsibilities of being a physician and the mother of two active boys, Dr. Rahl personally understands the challenges of prioritizing fitness. “I try to take advantage of opportunities and small windows of time to be active,” says Dr. Rahl. “I also try to incorporate my sons into the physical activity whether that means going for a family bike ride, walking the dog together or just doing calisthenics nearby when they are getting ready for a soccer game or at a piano lesson!”

The key to getting and staying active is to start slowly with activities you enjoy. People often ask Dr. Rahl what the best type of exercise is, to which she says, “The type of exercise you don’t mind doing and that you are willing to do consistently.” It is also helpful to allow for variety to keep things fresh and keep you motivated.

Getting up early and working out may aid in removing the excuse of being too busy or too tired by the end of the day. If you struggle with carving out time to get active, put it on your calendar and treat it as you would dinner plans or a meeting! Dr. Rahl also suggests bringing your workout clothes to work with you or keeping a spare set of clothes in your car to remove any excuse of being inconvenienced by having to go home first.

Dr. Rahl recommends working in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, while you can get by with less than 150 minutes by doing higher intensity activity. It is important to remember every little bit counts. By exercising or being active a little bit each day, even just moving for 30 minutes for five days a week can help improve your energy levels and overall mental and physical health.

Dr. Rahl also advises doing muscle and bone strengthening exercises at least twice a week, selecting 8-10 exercises and doing 8-12 repetitions of each. This type of physical activity will increase your metabolism, bone density and lean body mass. It will also decrease your bad cholesterol (LDL) while aerobic activity raises your good cholesterol (HDL). Strength training can include weights, calisthenics, Pilates, resistance training and yoga. 

We all tend to prioritize the things we enjoy the most. Identify what you most enjoy about moving more and what you can realistically do on a regular basis. Whether it’s walking around the field at your child’s soccer game or riding bikes as a family or strength training on your own – add it to your calendar. Start slowly and watch your productivity, energy and health benefits soar.

For more information about Cooper Clinic, visit cooper-clinic.com or call 972.560.2667.