These may seem like two very similar terms (and they are), but there is a difference between exercise and physical activity.  Sometimes people confuse the two, but it’s important to understand which is which and how to blend the two to fit your lifestyle and fitness goals!

What’s the Difference?

A square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square.  This is similar to the relationship between exercise and physical activity.  Exercise is physical activity within the constraint of organization – a regimen.  Exercise involves some element of time or a set and rep scheme.  This organization is what helps us to measure our training volume, weight lifted, distance run, etc.

Physical activity is any form of action that requires you to expend energy in a non-passive way.  Mowing the lawn could be considered physical activity – but you wouldn’t consider it an exercise.  Running could be a form of physical activity and you would consider it an exercise.  Physical activity may be more difficult to measure, but also contributes to our overall level of fitness and health.

Why Should I Care?

Ultimately, you can’t change what you don’t measure.  You should have a solid understanding of how exercise and physical activity play a role in your own personal health and fitness.  It’s important to have a healthy balance in order to keep your body in tip-top shape.  

Exercise without physical activity can turn you into an exercising couch potato (a term coined by my professor, Dr. Jeff Janot).  Hitting the gym hard for an hour each day but sitting the remaining 23 hours is not healthy.  Physical activity without exercise likely means that you may have imbalances or aches/pains that result from physical work that isn’t always structured.  Having a healthy balance is always my goal.

Closing Thoughts

I ended up writing this article because I was inspired by our recent home remodel.  One of the first projects was to remove tile flooring.  This required a hammer, wrecking bar, and a LOT of sweat.  By the end of the day, I had 11,000 hard-earned steps just throughout the house.  However, it’s a much different feeling than traditional exercise.  I enjoy both forms of physical exertion, but I know that for longevity, balance is important.

What is your favorite form of physical activity?  Do you have a go-to activity outside of the gym?

Let us know in a comment below and until next time.. Stay moving!

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