Is Exercise Causing You Stress?

jogger enjoying a river run

Stress reduction and relaxation by a river run – photo

Is Exercise Causing You Stress?


The first advice anyone gets when stressed is to get some physical exercise.


I do it myself and I it is usually the first advice I give. I was reading a book this week called The Inner Game of Stress and it had an interesting story that shows why we have to be a little more specific when either giving or taking this advice. I will reproduce the entire paragraph here.


I busy corporate lawyer who is taking our seminar mentioned that he had such a hard time scheduling time for exercise that he hired a personal trainer to come to his home and bought some equipment for a home gym. One morning, while he was working with the trainer, he looked outside. It was a beautiful day, and his gardener was doing the yard work. He had a revelation. “I realized that I was paying my trainer to exercise me, and paying for equipment, and I was also paying for my gardener. I thought that perhaps if I did something gardening myself, I would accomplish three purposes — not paying for the trainer or the equipment, and enjoying the improvement in my garden.” P. 70

If you think about this, perhaps we do get carried away with what is exercise. There was a time I would run for 16-20 km. in the morning, three times a week. Anything less just did not seem worthwhile. A bit obsessed I suspect. Now I value a walk beside a quiet lake to be of both great mental and physical benefit.


Does the kind of exercise matter?

I am going to take a little more from that same page.


We all know doctors tell him; “If you want to reduce stress, you have to exercise.” Good advice, right? Well, that depends. We present people with three different examples of exercise. In the first, the person is on a treadmill at a gym watching television. In the second, the person is jogging on the beach in the morning. In the third, a person is walking across the field in the evening to visit a friend for a drink and a chat at the end of the day.  Which activity is healthier? Keep in mind that all three are burning the same number of calories and working the same muscles. People usually think that if the physical activity is the same, all three are benefiting similarly. That’s the outer game. But if you look beyond that to the other areas that enhance health, you can see that the person jogging on the beach might be reaping additional benefit from appreciating the beauty of nature, and the person walking to meet a friend not only enjoys the beauty of nature, but also the additional benefit of making a human connection.

Now I might look at this and say that the more intense the workout the sooner you will burn the calories. Therefore you would get the benefit in less time. But when you look at the overall benefit I think their point is well made. If you factor in the increased productivity due to the additional benefits and the less exhausting exercise, I suspect the latter two have an overall beneficial affect.


I often find personally and with coaching clients that the stress and quilt from missing sessions often offsets the benefits of the exercise. I find the same thing sometimes when I am having trouble scheduling gym or court time, but a short walk from my office has the opposite effect.


How are you going to approach your exercise this week?


Barack Obama goes home for dinner most days at 6:30. Why can’t you?