Physical activity vs exercising: what’s the difference and which one is better for you?
Thu 10 10 2019

You might have used the terms “Physical activity” and “exercising” interchangeably, however, it seems like they do not have the same meaning. According to the World Health Organization, WHO, “Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure.” The organization also draws the attention to the fact that physical activity and exercising are not to be confused together. It continues stating that “exercise, is a subcategory of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and purposeful in the sense that the improvement or maintenance of one or more components of physical fitness is the objective.”

Therefore, walking from your car to the office, taking the stairs, playing with your kids in the garden, doing house chores, and even playing football, are all part of your daily physical activity. On the other hand, going to the gym, and doing repetitive and precise exercises for specific goals, is called exercising.

So how can you integrate these two concepts in your life?

Physical inactivity (the opposite of physical activity), has been found to be the fourth leading cause of death. Also, it has been found that physical inactivity can be behind many cases or breast and colon cancers, diabetes and ischemic heart disease (the risk when the heart is not getting enough blood and oxygen).

Physical activity can be of moderate or high intensity. The intensity is defined by the effort required to perform this activity. Moderate intensity physical activity can be: fast walking, dancing, doing home chores or gardening, hunting, walking your dog, general body-building tasks, moving loads of less than 20 kilos. On the other hand, high intensity physical activity include: running, climbing hills, aerobics, fast swimming, competitive sports and games such as basketball and carrying or moving loads of more than 20 kilos.

Regular levels of physical activity have many benefits for adults. These include:

  • Decreasing the risk of heart diseases in general (hypertension, coronary heart disease and stroke) and other diseases (diabetes, breast and colon cancer and depression)
  • Improving bone and functional health
  • Helping with energy balance and weight control

Exercising on the other hand is, as mentioned above, a more planned and specific type of repetitive movements we perform to improve not only our health but also our body shape. To improve your exercising routine, it is recommended that you hire a personal trainer who can understand your needs and plan a specific routine based on your aims. TRX classes, group fitness or weight lifting classes and hiking are also a good way to exercise and improve your physical fitness.

Alongside the benefits of physical activity, exercising helps you control your weight and lose any extra kilograms, boosts your mood and energy, gives you the ability to control your stress levels, and helps you sleep better.

Do I need to be physically active and exercise at the same time?

Well, there is no one answer for this question, but the more active you are, the healthier you get. Therefore, what is recommended is that you maximize your physical activity levels, and exercise regularly with a minimum of three times per week.