How do you spend a typical 24-hour day?  How many hours do you spend sleeping or sitting?  How many hours during a typical day do you spend being physically active?  Now think of how many hours you spend being active and think more specifically about what type of activity you are doing.  The World Health Organization has identified physical inactivity as an independent risk factor for chronic disease development.  That alone should be a trigger to become more active throughout the day.  Research suggests that the amount of time we spend sitting or being inactive could be just as important as the time we spend exercising.  This brings up an important question regarding the difference between physical activity and exercise.

There exists an important distinction between physical activity and exercise.  Physical activity is movement that is performed by the skeletal muscles that requires energy.  In essence, any movement performed by the body is considered physical activity.  However, exercise describes planned, structured, repetitive and intentional movement intended to have a positive impact on physical fitness.  While research provides evidence that all physical activity positively contributes to overall health, exercise is essential for improving the components of physical fitness.  These components include: cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition.  In order to be considered exercise, an activity must address these factors of physical fitness.

Total-body strength training is a great example of an activity that meets the definition of exercise.  Strength training positively impacts muscular strength and endurance.  It can positively impact cardiorespiratory fitness if performed at an appropriate intensity.  Utilizing a full-range of motion during strength training can provide improvements in flexibility fitness, and adding lean muscle tissue to your body will positively impact body composition.

Adding both elements, physical activity and exercise, to you daily routine is beneficial for improving physical fitness and overall health.  It is important to understand the similarities and differences between the two terms, especially when time it a factor.  Understanding the difference also becomes important when constructing realistic goals.  If you have significant fitness or health goals, consider implementing intentional total-body strength training as a tool to help you achieve those goals.

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