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The difference between activity and exercise

Getting fit: there is a big difference between exercise and physical activity

I hear people say all the time, “I took the stairs today” or, “Whew that hill was steep. I got my exercise in today”.

This made me wonder if most of us know the difference between exercise and physical activity.

Physical activity can be defined as any movement of the body that requires energy expenditure. Any activity we do that involves movement — housework, gardening, walking, and climbing stairs — is an example of physical activity.

Exercise is more specific. It is a planned session of physical activity performed with the intention of acquiring fitness. Exercise is also performed at a higher intensity than physical activity. Weight training, swimming, cycling, running, tennis and golf are all forms of exercise.

To ensure your exercise programme is successful, it should include the following elements:

Muscular strength

You can enhance muscular strength by lifting weights such as barbells, dumbbells or weight machines.

Muscular endurance

Muscular endurance can be improved through conditioning exercises, weight training and activities such as running or swimming.

Cardio-respiratory endurance

Enhance your respiratory endurance through activities such as brisk walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming or jumping rope.

Once you reach distance or intensity goals, set them higher or switch to a different activity to keep challenging yourself.


Work to increase your flexibility through stretching exercises such as yoga or Pilates or set aside at least 30 minutes of stretching two or three times per week on your own.

Increasing the amount of physical activity in your everyday life is a great start; try parking a few blocks away from your job to get in some extra steps.

However, to really achieve your fitness goals, you will want to include structured, vigorous activities in your training to help reach your fitness and health goals.

Keep moving and B-Active For Life!

Betty Doyling is a certified fitness trainer and figure competitor with more than a decade of experience. Check her out on Facebook: facebook.com/B.ActiveForLife