We all know we have to be physically active to stay healthy. However, many people don’t understand the difference between exercise and physical activity and why incorporating both is crucial to living life well with fitness.

Briefly the difference is:

  • Physical activity is movement that requires the muscles of the body to engage. In other words, any movement that involves using your body’s energy, including daily activities such as vacuuming, gardening, or walking up and down the stairs. It can also include running or swimming; therefore physical activity can range from light to vigorous intensity.
  • Exercise is planned, structured, repetitive and intentional movement intended to improve or maintain physical fitness. Exercise is a subcategory of physical activity. While some exercises can be light intensity, most are usually moderate to vigorous intensity.

Fitness requires combining exercise with physical activity and there are five pillars of fitness that exercise should address, they are:

  1. Balance
  2. Agility
  3. Cardio-respiratory endurance
  4. Core stability
  5. Muscle Strength

It is these fundamental components of fitness that our Shape-Up program and 9 minutes to fitness program is designed to improve.

A simple way to understand the difference is that being physically active leads to a healthy lifestyle while doing planned exercise, multiple times per week,  generally leads to specific fitness improvements in strength, cardio, balance, etc.

Physical activity and exercise go hand-in-hand for significant improvements to health. However, research provides evidence that ALL physical activity positively contributes to overall health and well-being.

How Much Exercise Is recommended?

The world health organization (WHO) recommend the following:

  • Adults aged 18–64 should do (per week) at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous intensity activity.
  • Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.
  • For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (per week) to 5 hours, or engage in 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous intensity activity.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
  • Adults over 64 years; should do an additional day per week of Muscle-strengthening activity, particularly older adults with reduced mobility.

Therefore if you are exercising 30 minutes at a vigorous level, 5 days per week, or 50 minutes at a moderate level,  then you have met the WHO guidelines.


How Can You Become More Physically Active?

Firstly, it’s important to evaluate your 24-hour physical activity and then make a plan to balance your physical activity and exercise. Here are some ideas to increase your daily physical activity:

  • Join a walking group or find a walking partner.
  • Walk the dog or walk yourself.
  • Clean the house or wash the car.
  • Mow the lawn
  • Gardening
  • Get off the bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way.
  • Replace a coffee break with a brisk 9-minute walk.
  • Take the stairs where possible.

Increasing the amount of physical activity each day is a good way to start your journey to good health. But if you want to increase your fitness, then you will want to incorporate some structured exercise into your schedule a few days a week.

Remember that your body is unique, and understanding your health needs (not your neighbour’s needs) is what will keep you on the right track toward living life well with fitness!

If you would like to try our 9 minutes to fitness online program, click below for more information and to download your Free  workout!



Live well with fitness!


Written by Anna: Fitness and Nutrition Personal Trainer @SquareBoxFitness.com