Physical Activity and Exercise – Understanding the Difference
Physical activity is defined as the movement that involves contraction of your muscles. Any of the activities we do throughout the day that involves movement — housework, gardening, walking, climbing stairs — are examples of physical activity.
Exercise is a specific form of physical activity — planned, purposeful physical activity performed with the intention of acquiring fitness or other health benefits, says David Bassett, Jr., Ph.D., a professor in the department of exercise, sport, and leisure studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Working out at a health club, swimming, cycling, running, and sports, like golf and tennis, are all forms of exercise.
Physical Activity and Exercise: Understanding the Difference
Most daily physical activity is considered light to moderate in intensity. There are certain health benefits that can only be accomplished with more strenuous physical activity, however. Improvement in cardiovascular fitness is one example. Jogging or running provides greater cardiovascular benefit than walking at a leisurely pace, for instance. Additionally, enhanced fitness doesn’t just depend on of what physical activity you do, it also depends on how vigorously and for how long you continue the activity. That’s why it’s important to exercise within your target heart rate range when doing cardio, for example, to reach a certain level of intensity.
Physical Activity and Exercise: Components of Physical Fitness
Ideally, an exercise program should include elements designed to improve each of these components:
Cardio-respiratory endurance. Enhance your respiratory endurance — your ability to engage in aerobic exercise — through activities such as brisk walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming, jumping rope, rowing, or cross-country skiing. As you reach distance or intensity goals, reset them higher or switch to a different activity to keep challenging yourself.
Muscular strength. You can increase muscular strength most effectively by lifting weights, using either free weights like barbells and dumbbells or weight machines.
Muscular endurance. Improve your endurance through calisthenics (conditioning exercises), weight training, and activities such as running or swimming.
Flexibility. Work to increase your level of flexibility through stretching exercises that are done as part of your workout or through a discipline like yoga or pilates that incorporates stretching.
While it’s possible to address all of these fitness components with a physically active lifestyle, an exercise program can help you achieve even greater benefits.
Increasing the amount of physical activity in your everyday life is a good start — like parking a few blocks from your destination to get in some walking. But to really achieve fitness goals, you’ll want to incorporate structured, vigorous activities into your schedule to help you attain even more of your fitness and health goals.
The US Department of Health recommends 150 minutes of physical activity to reduce the risks of chronic illnesses (heart disease, diabetes etc).
But what counts as physical activity? Physical activity is defined as a movement that involves contraction of your muscles. Any activities that we do throughout the day that involves some form of movement, be it housework, gardening, walking or climbing stairs, are examples of physical activity. Most daily physical activity is considered light to moderate in intensity.
Exercise is a specific form of physical activity that is planned, purposeful and performed with the intention of becoming fit or generally improving health. There are certain health benefits that can only be achieved through strenuous physical activity. For instance, building muscle tone to be able to garden, water plants, lift a child and prevent back pain.
Enhanced fitness doesn’t just depend on of what physical activity you do, it also depends on how vigorously and for how long you continue the activity. That’s why it’s important to exercise within your target heart rate range when doing cardiovascular exercise.
The first step is to find ways to move more throughout the day. Take the stairs, walk to the store, park a little further away or get off the bus a couple of stops early. The key is to try to identify specific goals that work in your normal day.
What’s 150 minutes? It translates to 15 minutes of activity, 10 times a week or twice a day for five days. How can you stay motivated and keep track? Print out the following scoreboard and color or check each innings (bottom and the half) each time you do 15 minutes of physical activity.
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