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Physical Activity vs. Exercise

Physical Activity vs. Exercise

Sara Kuhns CPT

How many times have you heard that you should be getting more cardio in as part of your exercise routine? You may have thought to yourself, "I already took my dog for a walk this morning around the neighborhood so I already did my cardio for the day..." or something along those lines. While this is a great example of getting in physical activity, it is not the same as structured exercise.

According to the American Council on Exercise, "Physical activity is movement that is carried out by the skeletal muscles that requires energy. In other words, any movement one does is actually physical activity." This could be taking a walk at the park, playing outside with your kids, raking the leaves, etc. On the other hand, Exercise "is planned, structured, repetitive and intentional movement intended to improve or maintain physical fitness. Exercise is a subcategory of physical activity." This includes anything from going to the gym, lifting weights, running on a treadmill, etc. 

Each of these elements are important to incorporate into your daily routine in order to live a healthy lifestyle, but depending on your goals, you may want to focus more on one than the other. An article from Colorado State University explains that "while there is overlap with both, being physically active often leads to a healthy lifestyle, while doing planned exercise multiple times per week generally leads to fitness improvements such as strength, cardio, or flexibility."

No matter what your current fitness level, you can most definitely improve your physical fitness, and therefore your heart health, by increasing physical activity and/or structured exercise! Get up and get moving!

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