Physical Activity vs Exercise
Physical activity encompasses all body movements while exercise is a form of physical activity that is planned, structured and repetitive. Both are intended to maintain or improve one’s overall health. All forms of physical activity reduce risks of illnesses. There are many ways of cultivating an active lifestyle whether you decide to go to the gym, take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk to the next bus stop. It’s important to get moving the best way you can to achieve optimal health benefits.
Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines
To achieve optimal health benefits, adults aged 18-64 should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.
It is also beneficial to add muscle and bone strengthening activities using major muscle groups, at least 2 days per week.
For the complete guidelines, visit Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.
Aerobic exercise improves the health of your heart and lungs by increasing your heart rate. Practice aerobic exercises at least 150 minutes a week. A moderate to vigorous intensity level is recommended when doing exercises. Some aerobic activities include:
- Brisk walking
- Climbing stairs
- Swimming laps
Strength training exercises develops your muscle strength, endurance, and mass. Consider strength training exercises that involve lifting free weights, resistance bands or weight machines. Pick one of these activities and try to do 10-15 repetitions of each exercise. These repetitions count as 1 set. Gradually building intensity by increasing weights and working up to doing 2 more sets of 10-15 repetitions of each exercise.
Examples of strength training activities include
- Rock climbing
- Cable pulleys
Moderate intensity of physical activity causes you to sweat and to breathe harder. A rule of thumb is you should be able to talk, but not sing along to your favorite song. Moderate activities include brisk walking, bike riding, climbing stairs, swimming and dancing.
Vigorous intensity of physical activity causes you to sweat and be out of breath. When doing vigorous activity you should not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. It is recommended to do as much vigorous activity as you can. This can involve jogging, running, hockey, basketball or gym workouts.
It is important to not overexert your body’s limit. Overexertion can cause injuries or harmful health conditions onto your body. Take breaks when necessary and gradually build your intensity level when doing activities.
McMaster psychology professors say that exercise breaks in between lecture can help memory maintenance and retention.Regular exercise can increase energy levels and reduce fatigue, particularly in sedentary individuals. While aerobic exercise can reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline while stimulating endorphins which help to elevate mood.
Being active for at least 150 minutes per week can help adults to:
- Increase overall fitness
- Strengthen muscles and bones
- Improve mental health and well being
- Reduce overweight and obesity
- Reduce the risk of chronic diseases including Heart disease, Stroke, High blood pressure, certain types of Cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, and Osteoporosis
- Reduce the risk of premature death