Key Differences Between Physical Activity and Exercise: To Exercise or Not To Exercise
Should you exercise or perform physical activity? Exercise and physical activity are used interchangeably but do they mean the same? Some fitness industry professionals also use the word workout. Your doctor also recommends that you engage in some form of physical activity. Does housework count? For you to reach your goals and gain the most benefit for your time and effort, it’s essential for you to know the difference.
Physical Activity Vs Exercise
Physical activity is any movement that causes you to use energy above your normal energy level at rest. We use energy at rest, but we use more when we move.
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE) exercise is planned, structured, repetitive and intentional movement intended to improve or maintain physical fitness. Exercise is a subcategory of physical activity.
Some physical activity won’t get you fit but regular exercise can because it tends to be more structured. The activity you participate in depends on your goals. It’s unlikely that you will get a six pack from doing housework , gardening or cutting the lawn but it counts .
To get more bang for your buck and kill two birds with one stone, regular exercise can change your physique and also help improve your health. There are plenty health benefits of exercise.
Do You have a Gym Membership?
CDC reports that 50% of Americans are physically inactive. 80% of us fail to participate in strength training and aerobics activity regularly. Other research also suggests that even when we exercise, we still spend too much time inactive.
This is surprising because, at the time of writing of this post, gym membership has increased from 23 million to 50 million in 20 years (Cloud, 2018). On the other hand, only 80% of people with gym membership go to the gym. Which category are you in?
Unfortunately, most healthcare providers know very little about reps and sets. It is not something they learn in their training. Therfore they will not recommend a specific exercise program. However, they do know the vital role exercise and physical activity plays in maintaining good health and preventing most chronic disease.
Your doctor tells you to get off the couch and engage in more physical activity because you are gaining weight, your cholesterol is high, and you are two donuts away from becoming a type II diabetic. He has been tracking your lab result for years and notices the slight changes now that might leave to serious problems in a few years.
The nurse gives you your discharge paperwork with your new prescription for an increase in your cholesterol medication. She even includes information on what to eat to help with your pre-diabetes and cholesterol and reminds you about being more active. Like a good patient, you say yes you will comply.
But you are confused because you thought you were, physically active when you walk the dog and clean the house. What else are you supposed to be doing? Do you need to get a gym membership, or buy some workout videos?
Your concerns are short-lived, and you go back into your routine until you hear about your cousin that is your age that had a heart attack. Panic and fear kick in and you are ready to try to figure out again. You will ask your doctor on the next visit.
What should you do in the mean time? Figuring out how to incorporate physical activity in your life can be challenging. When are you going to have the time to workout?
Although cleaning the house counts as physical activity it is not the same as taking a walk. Unless, you get on all fours on a daily basis and scrub the floor with a brush this will not give you optimal benefit.
The same can be said about walking your dog. Although you might walk your dog twice a day, in order for you to gain some physical activity benefit, you will have to walk briskly and not stroll. Strolling in the park with your lover won’t count either.
Dancing is fun and can work up a sweat and get your heart up . However 20mins of hip hop dancing is way different that 20mins of ballet.
Some movement is better than none but not all activity offers the same benefit. They acitivity must include the 3 rights of physical activity :Right frequency,Right intensity and Right duration.
Most physician recommends the below activity which is also recommended by the CDC.
Physical activity recommendations from CDC
• Moderate Intensity: 150 mins – 300 mins per week
• Vigorous Intensity: 75mins – 150 mins per week
All Major groups muscle strength training
• Moderate Intensity: 2 or more days a week
CDC finds that adults will gain the most benefit when they focus their physical activity efforts around aerobic activity and strength training. It is best to spread the activities throughout the week. In other word do not attempt to do 150 mins of acitivity in one or two days. If time or tolerance is a challenge and you cannot do it all at once, you can break it up throughtout the day.
Aerobic activity such as walking, jogging, swimming, and dancing increases the heart and breathing rate. It conditions the functioning of the cardiac and respiratory system. This group of activities will help lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
Strengthening training also known as resistance training tones and builds muscles which increases your strength, coordination, and balance.
Go Hard or Go Home
Along with frequency and length of activity, the intensity is also used to determine effort. CDC made it simple. They want you to exert moderate or vigorous effort.
The talk test can be used to measure intensity. It’s quite simple and goes as follows:
Low intensity is the ability to walk and talk easily. Very little effort is needed to carry on with the conversation.
Moderate intensity is talking while walking and is noticeable challenging but you can still talk.
During a vigorous intensity activity talking is almost impossible.
Experts recommend that beginners should start with slow steady cardio first. In order to stick to your new routine it is best that you find an activity that you like . Preferably one that gets your heart rate up. Once you decide on an activity stay consistent and committed. It may take a while for you to see changes but you will certainly feel it.
Last but not least, after your muscles are warm do not forget to stretch. Hold each position for 10 – 30 seconds and repeat 3 – 4 times.
Besides manually logging you activity, a great option is wearable technology such as pedometer and fitness trackers. These devices can store and trend your data. This way you can really see how active you are.
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