Exercise and Physical Activity: What is the Difference?

by / Monday, 12 August 2013 / Published in Keep Moving, Reasons to move

WalkingThe 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 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 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 half) each time you do 15 minutes of physical activity.

(Click image to print full-sized version.)