Exercise vs physical activity – understand the difference

Physical activity is defined as movement that involves contraction of your muscles. Any of the activities we do throughout the day that involve 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. 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. Additionally, enhanced fitness doesn’t just depend 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.  How can you tell if an activity is considered moderate or vigorous in intensity? If you can talk while performing it, it’s moderate. If you need to stop to catch your breath after saying just a few words, it’s vigorous.Ideally, your exercise program should include elements designed to improve each of these components:

  • Cardio-respiratory endurance.
  • Muscular strength.
  • Muscular endurance.
  • Flexibility.

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. 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.

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