Exercise and Physical Activity: What’s The Difference?

A movement that is made up of muscle contractions is defined as physical activity. All day long we are performing activities that involve movement gardening, housework, climbing stairs, walking each of these is an example of physical activity.

According to David Bassett, Jr., Ph.D. who is a professor at the University of Tennessee’s Department of Exercise, Sport and Leisure Studies, exercise is simply a certain type of physical activity. It is an activity that is purposeful and planned with the intention of becoming fit or gaining other healthful benefits. Often at health clubs, there are other forms of activity available such as running, sports like tennis and golf, cycling and swimming. These are all good types of exercise.

Physical Activity and Exercise: Understanding the Difference

Most of the physical activity that we do every day is moderate to light intensity. But there are specific benefits to health that can only happen when physical activity is very strenuous. For example, there are improvements in cardiovascular fitness. In another example, running or jogging provides more benefits to the cardiovascular system than unhurried walking. Also, enhancing fitness is not just dependent on the type of physical fitness that is done, it also matters if the exercise is done vigorously and how long the activity is continued. For this reason, it is very important that you exercise within the range of your target heart rate when you are performing cardio if you are trying to reach a specific intensity level.

Physical Activity and Exercise: Understanding Intensity

You are probably wondering if there is a way to distinguish moderate activity from vigorous intensity activity. The test is usually whether or not you can talk while you are exercising. If you can, it is moderate. If you need to stop after just saying a couple of words, it is vigorous. It is also dependent on your level of fitness. For example, a doubles game of tennis is probably a moderate level of intensity and a singles game is vigorous. Or ballroom dancing is moderate but aerobic dancing would be vigorous. So it is not the choice of activity, it is the amount you exert yourself.

Physical Activity and Exercise: Components of Physical Fitness

When deciding on an exercise program, it should have each of these elements:

Cardio-Respiratory Endurance  You will be able to improve your respiratory endurance, whether or not you can do aerobic exercise, by running, jogging, walking, jumping rope, swimming, cycling, cross-country skiing or rowing. As you become better at exercising, reset your intensity or distance goals or change to a new activity so that you will continue to challenge yourself.

Muscular Strength  The best way to boost your muscular strength is to lift weights, either weight machines or free weights, like dumbbells and barbells.
Muscular Endurance  Your muscular endurance can be improved by doing weight training, calisthenics for conditioning, swimming or running.

Flexibility You can work to improve your flexibility level with exercises for stretching as a regular part of the workout or through a separate activity such as pilates or yoga that have already incorporated stretching.

If you are active, it is possible for you to get all of these components of fitness by living a life that is physically active but you will get more benefits if you also have a regular exercise program.

A great place to start is by raising the total physical activity that you do every day ñ maybe park a couple of blocks away and walk to your destination. But if you are serious about becoming fit, you will need vigorous, structured activities that are part of your normal schedule. If you are able to do this you will be able to reach your health and fitness goals.