Physical Activity Vs. Exercise


What actually constitutes as exercise? Are all physical activities considered exercise? Often, I will ask a client if they exercise, and they will answer with something like "I don't need to exercise... I already clean the house and manage the yard." Or I will ask people what they do as exercise, and they will reply with a list of activities like "working," or "cleaning," or "lifting," or "shovelling," or "gardening." Is that repetitive stress, or is that exercise? No wonder they are full of aches and pains and complain about a lack of results.

To me, not all physical activities are considered exercise. Exercise should be defined as an activity that is harder than what you normally do on a daily basis. Your heart and your muscles should be working harder than usual to keep up with the exercising demand. Now, this definition is going to vary based on the individual. For someone who is sedentary, even going on a leisurely walk around the block can be considered exercise. However, for someone who is on their feet all day, walking at this leisurely pace might be thought of as a physical activity but not an exercise; they might feel like they need to work out at the gym or do a fitness class in order to get "exercise."

When you first try a new activity, your body is challenged by this unknown stimulus. However, as your body begins to adapt over time, the activity becomes less strenuous. Indeed, this is an indicator of improved fitness, but in order for your body to physically change, it needs to be stressed and challenged. For example, if you start a physically demanding job, it might feel tiring and physically draining at first. You might go home at night and just crash. Over time though, your body will get used to it until it doesn't feel like hard work anymore. You might even feel like you could do so much more when you go home after work.

However, I would consider work more as repetitive stress than exercise. Performing the same movements over and over again at work and at home is not advantageous for the body. The body likes new stimuli, so climbing up and down ladders or using a hammer or painting all day are more overuse physical activities than exercise. Just because you're moving around all day doesn't necessarily mean that it's good for you. Repetitive and overuse injuries occur when you perform the same constant motion day in and day out. In contrast, exercises are typically beneficial for the full body.

So... do you still think you're exercising when you're out mowing the lawn???

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