Many people ask me what exactly is considered exercise. There are many physical things we do in our day, but which of those activities can we count as exercise? To clear up the confusion, let me start by defining the term Exercise and explaining how it is different than Physical Activity.

Here is how American College of Sports Medicine defines them:

  • Physical Activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by the contraction of skeletal muscles which results in a substantial increase in caloric requirement over resting energy expenditures.

  • Exercise is defined as a type of physical activity that is planned, structured and repetitive body movements done to improve and/or maintain one or more components of physical fitness.

  • Physical Fitness is defined as set of attributes or characteristics individuals have or achieve that relates to their ability to perform physical activity. (strength, endurance and flexibility)

  • Cardiovascular (CV) Exercise is defined as 10 minutes or longer of regular or purposeful exercise that involves major muscles groups and is continuous and rhythmic in nature. (Biking, Walking, Cycling, Swimming, Aerobics, Running)

If you count grocery shopping, walking around at work or doing light yard work as physical activity, then you might be surprised that those things are not considered cardiovascular exercise. You may have realize that those things haven’t helped you reach your physical fitness goals and may not help you lose weight.

If you walk all day at work and still weigh more than recommended for your height, here is why. Exercise is defined as physical activity done consistently with the intention to improve or maintain strength, flexibility, respiratory fitness or general health. The “intention to improve” piece is the key difference between physical activity and exercise. If you are shopping to get groceries, it is considered physical activity but not exercise. Physical Activity may have some benefits, but not the measured and progressive benefit that exercise for the sake of exercise has to offer.

In summary, just 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a week can help you maintain your health through the effects of aging. It can also prevent, reverse or manage diseases like Diabetes and Heart Disease and their related conditions like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Exercise can decrease your risk of all diseases, reduce depression and anxiety, all while keeping your body in great physical condition.