When writing about health issues in this column, I routinely use terms such as exercise, physical activity, and fitness.
Some people have asked why I use these different words because they all have similar meanings. That’s an excellent question because while these terms are related, they have different uses for health and wellness.
Physical activity (PA) is defined as any movement produced by muscles that expend energy. PA can be classified as professional, what you do at work, and leisure, what you do in your spare time. Occupational PA can vary widely depending on the job, but it’s low for most of us who spend most of our workday sitting down.
Free time PA is any activity outside of work. This is of great importance to researchers as it reflects how we chose to spend our time. Physical activity can be measured as pedometers, which count the steps you take, or other wearable motion sensors that measure how much you move.
Exercise is a type of physical activity that requires planned, structured, and repetitive movements to improve or maintain physical fitness. Thus, physical fitness is a set of attributes related to the ability to perform physical activity and exercise. The components of physical fitness include endurance, strength and flexibility.
Basically, participating in physical activity and exercise improves your fitness and the greater your fitness, the more able you are to participate in physical activity. This applies to completing professional tasks as well as traditional exercises, such as jogging or lifting weights.
The good news is that both physical activity and exercise have health and fitness benefits. Physical activity can vary in intensity, from light (slow walking), moderate (brisk walking), or vigorous (exercise such as running). The 2018 U.S. Exercise Guidelines recommend that all adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for a minimum of 2 hours and 30 minutes per week, or vigorous activity for 1 hour and 15 minutes per week, and do strength training at least 2 days per week . week. You can meet this recommendation by walking briskly for 30 minutes 5 days a week or running for 25 minutes 2 days a week, or a combination of both. Additional benefits come from doing more, either a higher intensity or a longer duration of activity.
Vigorous exercise is the best way to improve fitness, while moderate-intensity activity is strongly linked to health benefits.
Fitness benefits are the result of adaptations in the heart and muscles, which become stronger and more resistant to fatigue. These changes also lead to health benefits, including lower blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose, and aid in weight loss and weight management.
Research suggests that health and fitness benefits also result from light intensity or intermittent activity, especially if it replaces sitting. At home or at work, the more time you spend sitting down, the worse your health is, even if you exercise every day.
One study shows that getting off the couch and sitting in place during TV commercials results in nearly 25 minutes of activity per hour and burns about 150 calories, compared to 80 calories sitting all the time.
You won’t be in top shape with this, but it is an easy way to increase your overall activity. With this in mind, it is a good recommendation to reduce sitting time in favor of light activity – stand while reading the newspaper or walk around on the phone – and engage in moderate or vigorous activities every day by going for a brisk walk. or other exercises, including strength training.