Sometimes the simplest of fitness principles are the ones that go under the radar. In this case, the difference between exercise and physical activity is often greatly overlooked. We’re fed all of these fancy-looking videos and articles that show us how to train, when to train, and why we’re never training enough. This goes far beyond fitness, too. We’re also bombarded with nutritional advice from every angle that muddies the waters and leaves most people confused and lost.
It’s as if all we’re constantly exposed to the ‘ideal model of health’ which quickly causes us to forget the simpler, and may I argue more effective, principles of fitness. As a personal trainer and kinesiologist, one of my favorite roles is transforming what fitness means to a new gym-goer. In my experience, my client’s boxes are often far too restricting when we first start out.
One of the great shortcomings I see is the perspective that only planned exercise is valuable for your health. If you didn’t put it in your calendar, track it with your apple watch, or move for more than an hour…what’s the point? While we aren’t to blame for this faulty paradigm (it’s simply what we’ve been told), it’s seriously attenuating our ability to foster a healthy lifestyle throughout all of the waking hours. I’m very pleased to see features on smartwatches beginning to encourage this behavior, but we still have a long way to go.
Physical Activity — The Most Underrated Tool For a Long Life
You may roll your eyes at how subtle the difference is between physical activity and exercise, but I promise, it’s one of the most valuable realizations you can make. Look at any group or institution around fitness and you’ll see this definition:
Exercise: A planned, structured, and intentional event or session to improve or maintain fitness. Typically, this is at a 10-minute duration or longer.
Physical Activity: Any movement that is carried about by the musculoskeletal system. Essentially, any movement of the human body requiring a level of effort beyond one’s resting heart rate.
The beauty of physical activity is that it can be spontaneous, fun, and easy. It’s all rooted in the fact that every little bit of movement counts. Just think if you were to park 500m further from work every day. Sure, this isn’t really considered an exercise session because it’s virtually 3–4 minutes of your time. Over time, however, decisions like this can go a long way. Just think…
There are about 260 workdays per year.
500m x 2 = 1km per day.
That’s 163 miles or 6 marathons of movement.
Yes, this may seem like an obvious strategy to boost your health, but it’s astounding how many people still overlook the simplicity and power of physical activity. To solidify its value, here are three ways it can make a serious, long-term change in your life:
1) Physical activity adds up WAY more than you think. If you begin to make small decisions to implement movement throughout work and recreational life, you may very well double your activity for the week. While each bout may not be considered ‘exercise’, you’ll be designing a system that will greatly improve your health.
2) Your next posture is your best posture. Any time you’re moving, you’re resetting your posture, re-igniting circulation, and kicking sedentary behavior in the butt. Prolonged sitting is one of North America’s biggest killers, so the value of this habit cannot be understated
3) It is an effective way to break up your day, whether at work or school. Any form of movement is proven to increase attention, productivity, and overall wellbeing. Taking those breaks will be much more efficient than trying to grind all the way through a 9–5.
As much as exercise can change your life, the true power comes when you foster movement throughout every nook and cranny of your day.
One of the most underrated indicators of your health and wellness is your daily physical activity. We’re so caught up in planning the perfect exercise session that we can easily forget how valuable the other 23 hours of the day are. If you pull one take-away from this post, let it be to never put all of your eggs in one basket!
Sure, constructing an intentional exercise routine is a critical step to maintaining health and fitness. Just ensure you’re also taking practical steps to increase movement throughout other hours of the day as well. Park further from your workplace, take your bike instead of the car, and most importantly, surround yourself with those who naturally live active lifestyles.
Contrary to many ‘fitness experts’ on the web, the basics of health and wellness living can be easily summarized in one sentence…
Eat well, sleep better, move often — more often than you think.