Regular exercise is an extremely beneficial practice for your health, that’s a no brainer. The question however, is how much exercise encourages optimal health, what type, and is your current exercise routine actually helping or hindering you health? In order to help maximize your exercise health potential, it’s critical to understand some simple parameters around whether what you’re doing (or not) is actually helping you gain momentum toward better health today.


Healthy versus unhealthy exercise


All physical exercise is healthy, right? No, not necessarily. What defines healthy versus unhealthy exercise is all about how you’re currently engaging your practice and your personal approach toward it. 


Healthy Exercise 

In order for exercise to be considered healthy, you need to ensure the following guidelines: 


  • It causes a sustained increase in your heart rate (and breathing) over a predetermined amount of time (usually a minimum of 3-5 minute bouts, repeated 4-5 times over, or consistently for 10-20+ minutes).
  • It causes you to sweat, at least in line with the times you engage in vigorous intensity (sweating is a superior method to detoxify your body and gain benefit from your exercise practice). 
  • You repeat your exercise practice at least 3-4 times per week. 
  • It’s a physical activity that you enjoy (such as weight lifting, running, vigorous walking, hiking or biking for example) and see it as a regular part of your routine.
  • You notice uplifting and energizing results from it (more energy, mental clarity, satisfaction).
  • It is balanced (feeds your mind, body and soul).
  • You supplement and support it with healthful and purposeful nutrition and rest. 
Unhealthy Exercise 

As much as exercise is healthy, there are unhealthy downsides as well. Again, It’s all about your approach to it that matters most: 


  • You overexercise or overtrain – the more you exercise the worse you feel and longer it takes you to recover.
  • You exercise too late in the day – if you can exercise and then go to bed and fall asleep, then you are on the wrong exercise track. 
  • You are under-exercising  (not reaping any benefits from it, as per the healthy benefits of exercise, above) – only partaking in exercise sporadically or not as a regular part of your routine.
  • You are already chronically stressed, and also exercising too much – exercise is stress too, so if you’re already stressed, and not allowing your body to rest, you’re causing cumulative negative stress.
  • It is not balanced (not benefiting your mind, body, and soul)
  • You don’t enjoy your exercise – this often occurs when people only exercise for the sake of wanting to ‘look better’, lose weight, or try to keep up with others. 
  • You are eating poorly and not supplementing or supporting your exercise through healthful and purposeful nutrition.
  • You are not providing enough time to rest and recover from exercise (see overtraining above). 


Exercise is a healthy endeavour, however if you’re exercising too much or creating an overstressed burden on your already stressed mind, body or soul, then it’s time to re-evaluate your purpose and intent. Exercise is about balancing the physical benefits with that of the mindful and emotional outcomes as well. I talk to my patients a lot about the difference between exercise, movement and activity (read more here). The key to improved health is to engage regular movement and activity into your dally life, however when it comes to the benefits of exercise (as it’s typically more vigorous and intense), a balanced approach is exactly what your health needs. 


Want to know more about the best exercise approach for you? Follow my blogs on line, and keep an eye out for my next post! 


Dr Jeremy Hayman, ND helps patients at Cornerstone Naturopathic Inc. feel better, live better, and achieve optimal wellness and health. Years of patient care coupled with dedication to personal life balance has helped Dr Jeremy employ the adage that “your approach to health should be simple”.