By. Garrett Guzman
Let’s begin this article by stating that I wholeheartedly believe that movement is one of the most important, if not the most important, means of achieving a long and healthy life. But there needs to be some very clear distinction between exercise and activity. While the dictionary may have several definitions for each, I will share with you my definitions. Exercise is movement that is very intentional, significantly elevates heart rate, and is done for a set period of time. Activity is movement that is often unintentional (in other words, not done for the strict purpose of movement), may or may not significantly elevate heart rate, and is done periodically for an undetermined amount of time (and hopefully incorporated often). Examples of exercise include resistance training, group fitness classes (such as spinning, boxing, etc.), the triathlon three exercises (swimming, cycling, running), playing a sport (football, basketball, baseball, etc.), and others. Examples of activity include going on a leisurely walk or bicycle ride with your spouse/child/pet, taking the stairs versus the elevator at work (or parking in the farthest spot and walking from there), taking the stairs versus the escalator at the mall (and simply walking around the mall), mowing your lawn or tending to your garden, cleaning your house (including the dreaded dishes), and many others. By this time, you should be able to start to see the differences between exercise and activity. Now, don’t try to critically decipher between various movements, debating whether it’s an exercise or an activity. The intention of this article is to help you understand the general difference, and understand that activity trumps exercise for long-term health and longevity. How can I make such a claim? Many of the longest living and healthiest individuals from around the world work (many of these occupations could be classified as very active) well into their 90’s, without ever incorporating a formal exercise program. They are not “hitting the gym” every day to get their “pump on.” They are simply staying extremely active every day; much of their lives revolve around it. On the contrary, in the United States, home of soaring obesity and chronic disease rates, we have become better and better at exercising for 30 minutes to an hour several days per week, and then sit on our butts as much as possible otherwise. Essentially, we exercise for about 90 minutes per week, then limit our activity to the bare minimum outside of that time. Many of our days involve sitting in the car (or carpool line) for hours, sitting at work for hours, sitting in the car again (or carpool line again), sitting down while eating all of our meals (which a good thing by the way, just stating this fact), then sitting down enjoying our television, computers, tablets, or phones the rest of the evening. Now, your situation may defer slightly, but don’t underestimate the amount of time spent sitting during the day, and not being active.
In summary, please don’t let this be a downer on exercise. Exercise is extremely valuable to our overall health and should be incorporated several days per week. However, activity must be done daily, and in many of our cases, must be done more often. Find ways that you (and your loved ones) can be more active every day!