“Hey, I just mopped the floor, so I’m skipping the gym today!” Sound familiar? Many folks confuse physical activity, exercise and physical fitness.
- Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that result in energy expenditure.
- Exercise is a type of physical activity that is planned, structured and repetitive and has a goal of maintenance or improvement of physical fitness.
- Physical fitness is a set of attributes that are either health- or skill-related that people have or achieve. Health-related components of physical fitness include 1) cardiorespiratory endurance, 2) muscular strength, 3) flexibility and 4) body composition. Skill-related components of physical fitness include 1) agility, 2) balance, 3) coordination, 4) speed and 5) reaction time.
What’s wrong with household chores and why does this matter? All exercise (running, biking, swimming, resistance training, etc.) is some form of physical activity but not all physical activities (chores, gardening, knitting, dancing, etc.) are necessarily exercise. Many people think that they don’t need to exercise because they are already active. However, activity alone does not necessarily lead to improved physical fitness.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines for cancer patients/survivors does recommend physical activity. However, they specifically recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic (cardiorespiratory) exercise along with strength building and flexibility exercises two to three days per week. Moderate aerobic activity increases both heart and respiratory rates. Moderate intensity activities allow you to talk but not sing while exercising…getting the picture?
So, what’s the answer? Studies show that a combined approach of an active lifestyle and a targeted exercise program achieve physical fitness goals best. That means parking at the end of the parking lot and walking to your final destination, carrying your own groceries and taking frequent movement breaks at work (and, yes, cleaning your house) are part of an active lifestyle. But it ALSO means maintaining a varied exercise program targeting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly along with strengthening and flexibility sessions at least twice a week. As always, talk with your personal healthcare provider prior to starting an exercise regimen.