Exercise and physical activity: what’s the difference? – Fitness Center
Physical activity is defined as movement that involves the contraction of your muscles. All the activities we do throughout the day that involve movement – housework, gardening, walking, climbing stairs – are examples of physical activity.
Exercise is a specific form of physical activity – planned and targeted physical activity performed with the goal of gaining physical fitness or other health benefits, explains David Bassett, Jr., PhD, professor in the Department of Exercise, Sport, and Recreation Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Working out at a health club, swimming, biking, running, and playing sports, such as golf and tennis, are all forms of exercise.
Physical activity and exercise: Understanding the difference
Most daily physical activity is considered light to moderate in intensity. However, some health benefits can only be achieved with more intense physical activity. Improving cardiovascular fitness is one example. For example, jogging or running provides greater cardiovascular benefits than walking at a leisurely pace. Moreover, improving physical fitness does not only depend on the physical activity you engage in, it also depends on the vigor and duration of your activity. That’s why it’s important to train in your target heart rate range when doing cardio, for example, to reach a certain level of intensity.
Physical Activity and Exercise: Understanding Intensity
How do I know if an activity is considered moderate- or vigorous-intensity? If you can talk while performing it, it’s moderate. If you need to stop to catch your breath after saying a few words, that’s vigorous. Depending on your fitness level, a doubles game of tennis would likely be moderate in intensity, while a singles game would be more vigorous. Similarly, ballroom dancing would be moderate, but aerobic dancing would be considered vigorous. Again, it’s not just your choice of activity, it’s how much effort it takes.