Differentiating Between Exercise and Physical Activity

Many people cannot make the difference between exercise and physical activity – and this shouldn’t be. The differentiation between the two things is important especially for people whose life goals include faster weight loss or better fitness. Here’s a few things to know about their differences.

Basic Differences

On one hand, physical activity involves movement resulting in the contraction of muscles. Daily life activities can then be considered physical activity per se.  These include but aren’t limited to walking, running, and climbing the stairs, even doing the housework and gardening.

On the other hand, exercise is the planned and purposeful specific physical activity apart from daily life activities. The main intention in exercise is enjoying the benefits of a fitter and healthier body, such as in weight loss or bodybuilding. These include working out in health clubs, such as YMCA, in activities like swimming, cycling, and weightlifting, as well as sports activities.

Most daily physical activities have light to moderate intensity. While these activities have their health benefits, exercise with more strenuous physical intensity provides greater benefits. Keep in mind, too, that enhanced fitness depends on three things:

  • What type of physical activity is performed
  • How vigorously it was performed
  • How long the activity was done

The importance of exercising with your target heart rate range during cardio exercise is based on it. You have to reach a specific level of intensity to enjoy the health benefits of exercise.

The Subject of Intensity

You can easily tell the level of intensity of physical activity or exercise – no tools, just your body talking, so to speak. You can determine the amount of exertion required by the physical activity by listening to your own body first.

For example, if you can still talk while performing the physical activity, then it’s moderate in intensity. If you have to stop and catch your breath after a few words, then it’s more vigorous in its intensity.

Of course, your physical condition will largely determine the level of intensity. You may be out of breath in a doubles tennis game after 15 minutes. Your physical condition leaves plenty to be desired so you have to build up your cardio endurance.  

The Components of Physical Fitness

With that said, you’re well-advised to include the following components of physical fitness to your exercise program for best results. You don’t have to do all of them in a single day since alternating days with rest periods are recommended.

  • Cardio-respiratory endurance with exercises like brisk walking, running, swimming and cycling (i.e., aerobic exercises)
  • Muscular strength through weightlifting exercises
  • Muscular endurance through calisthenics and weight training
  • Flexibility with exercises like stretching exercises, Yoga and Pilates

When exercise is coupled with the right diet and lifestyle habits, the health benefits are nothing short of wonderful!

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