The World Health Organization defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure – including activities undertaken while working, playing, carrying out household chores, traveling, and engaging in recreational pursuits.
The term “physical activity” should not be confused with “exercise”, which is a subcategory of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and aims to improve or maintain one or more components of physical fitness. Beyond exercise, any other physical activity that is done during leisure time, for transport to get to and from places, or as part of a person’s work, has a health benefit. Further, both moderate and vigorous-intensity physical activity improve health!
The difference between physical activity and exercise really applies mostly to our cardiovascular activity. For example, steps are an example of physical activity that can greatly improve our health. (Read all the benefits including brain health, weight management and more here.) Structured cardiovascular exercise increases our heart rate and develops our HEART MUSCLE to function better from a fitness perspective. And of course, it also improves our health. Typically, it is good to include both physical activity AND cardiovascular exercise.
So, what difference does this information make with regard to how you select movement? Set a step goal and a cardiovascular fitness goal. Your cardiovascular work will go toward your step goal! You are striving for 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week. As your intensity goes up, the length of time needed to exercise decreases. The hard part about that statement is that when we are beginning, a longer duration can be difficult. To combat early fatigue, we suggest you do 10-minute bouts.
Pro Tip: If you have a heart rate monitor, you can judge your intensity by the heart rate!
We are happy to do a heart rate test for you…but you can also calculate your target heart rate with an age basis or an easy treadmill test. Calculate your target heart rate now.