Exercise is a subset of physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive and done for the purpose of maintaining or improving physical fitness. Common types of exercise are cardiovascular exercise (running, swimming, aerobics class), strength training (lifting weights, pushups, pull-ups), flexibility (static, dynamic, and ballistic stretching, and active range of motion).
Physical fitness is a set of attributes that are health or skill related and can be measured with specific tests. Common tests of physical fitness include VO2Max, Cooper 12-minute run, sit and reach, 40 yard sprint, vertical jump, and sitting-rising test.
To understand the difference between exercise and physical activity and there impacts on health look at the image below from the American Institute for Cancer Research. GREEN represents time spent exercising, YELLOW represents time spent being physically active, and GRAY represents time spend being sedentary.
Most people who are not athletes but are trying to stay healthy focus on exercise as the path to health. They have heard exercise is important and try to exercise most days of the week. Let's use Bob as an example: Bob enjoys cycling and spends 45 minutes 4 days a week cycling at the gym and most of the rest of his days he is sedentary. While this is a good start, cycling only works a couple muscle groups in a limited range of motion and level of demand while neglecting many other muscles groups and ranges of motion. How could Bob improve his routine?
- Do a variety of cycling workouts (intervals, longer spins, speedwork)
- Do a variety of cardiovascular workouts (cycling, running, swimming, aerobics class)
- Introduce other types of exercise besides cardio (weight training, flexibility, agility, balance)
- Become more physically active (walk at lunch, hike on weekends, get a standing desk, play sports with his kids, take breaks every 30 minutes to do several quick exercises - jumping jacks, pushups, lunges)
- Do all of the above.
Health comes from stimulating our entire body and all its systems and parts in a variety of ways on a regular basis (ideally daily). What's the best example of what this would look like?
- Well looking at hunter gathering societies are a good place to start and will give us ideas as to what our bodies are designed to do. Walking 5-8 miles a day. Running including short fast sprints occasionally. Digging. Pulling. Pushing. Climbing trees. Scrambling up and down steep hills and over rocks. Carrying things in our hands, on our backs, and on our heads. Swimming. Throwing. Bring active much of the day and resting the rest of the day.
- Another great example that is even closer to home is watching children between 2 and 6 years old. They crawl, roll, climb, run, jump, squat, balance, grab, carry, throw, push, pull, kick, dance, and move. They are active much of the day, but only do a certain thing for a limited amount of time and then do something else. Variety. Lots of variety. Play. It's all play. Fun.
When we become more physically active we can/will experience:
- Increased energy
- Improved mood
- Decreased pain
- Improved flexibility
- Better agility
- Improved balance
- Increased bone density
- Strengthened immune system
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Deeper breathing
- Increased physical strength
- Decreased stress
- Improved relationships
- Being happier
- Improved brain function
- Peace of mind
Remember exercise is not the same as physical fitness. Physical fitness comes from how we move all day long. For help figuring out how to improve your physical fitness and achieve improved health, contact me today for a free consultation.
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