Health checkup: Making time for exercise

Fabrice Julien; photo courtesy of Julien

Editor’s note: The following Q&A is one of several featured in this week’s Wellness, Part 2 issue.

Fabrice Julien is an assistant professor of health and wellness at UNC Asheville. His interdisciplinary background includes training in public health, social medicine, sociology and political science.

Julien speaks with Xpress about creating schedules for physical activity, the benefits of exercise on a person’s mental health and ways individuals can avoid overwhelming themselves.

What advice would you give people struggling to fit exercise into their daily lives?

Before trying to fit exercise into your busy schedule, it is important for you to understand how you occupy your time. Creating a schedule of your daily activities helps you to identify gaps and periods of time when physical activity could take place. We often underestimate how much time we have for exercise, and this approach is a helpful tool in getting folks to understand they can make physical activity work for them.

How does staying physically active improve mental health?

Staying physically active reduces stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline in the body. When we have too much stress, this can have deleterious effects and can negatively impact one’s quality of life. Physical activity serves as an important buffer against these daily stressors and infractions. Physical exercise also increases endorphin levels, which can influence happiness and helps build self-efficacy. Staying active is an important shield for one’s emotional and mental well-being.

What is your favorite way to approach your own physical health?

My favorite way to approach my physical health is to get active. In the past, I have struggled with finding the time to exercise, but recently I have found that mapping out and understanding my daily schedule helps me identify periods of my day when I can be active. The recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week used to be daunting, but I now distribute the physical activity throughout my day in short sessions.


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