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Physical activity and exercise are frequently used as interchangeable terms. However, there are distinct differences between the two that are important to recognize when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between physical activity and exercise and why both are crucial for overall health.

What Is Physical Activity and Exercise?

Activities that necessitate energy expenditure are considered physical activity, such as walking (Image via Andrea Piacquadio/ Pexels)

Physical Activity

Physical activity is any movement that requires energy expenditure. This can include activities such as walking, gardening, doing household chores, or playing with children. The key feature of physical activity is that it gets your body moving and requires physical effort. Even small bouts of physical activity throughout the day can be beneficial for health.

The benefits of physical activity are numerous. Regular physical activity can help improve heart health, maintain a healthy weight, improve mental health, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and certain types of cancer. Physical activity also helps to improve overall fitness, including muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility.


In contrast, exercise is a particular form of physical activity that involves a deliberate and organized approach, with a set structure and repetition. Exercise is typically performed with the goal of improving physical fitness, although it can also be done for enjoyment or stress relief. Examples of exercise include running, weight lifting, swimming, and yoga.

Unlike physical activity, exercise is typically done at a higher intensity and with specific goals in mind. For example, if someone wants to improve their cardiovascular health, they may do aerobic exercise such as running or cycling. If they want to improve their muscular strength, they may do resistance training such as weight lifting.

The benefits of exercise are similar to those of physical activity but can be more specific. For example, aerobic exercise can help to improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of heart disease, while resistance training can improve muscular strength and bone density.

Why Both Are Important for Health

While there are differences between physical activity and exercise, both are important for overall health. Physical activity helps to keep the body moving and can be incorporated into daily life, while exercise provides a more structured approach to improving fitness and achieving specific health goals.

The World Health Organization suggests that adults participate in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.

This can include a combination of physical activity and exercise. For example, someone may take a 30-minute brisk walk each day and also do resistance training twice a week.

Incorporating both physical activity and exercise into your daily routine can have numerous health benefits. Regular physical activity can help to improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve sleep quality. Exercise can help improve physical fitness, increase energy levels, and improve cognitive function.

Tips for Incorporating Physical Activity and Exercise into Your Routine

Incorporating physical activity and exercise into your daily routine doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Start small: If you’re new to physical activity or exercise, start with small goals and work your way up. For example, you may start by taking a 10-minute walk each day and gradually increase the time and intensity.
  2. Find activities you enjoy: Physical activity and exercise don’t have to be boring. Find activities that you enjoy, whether that’s dancing, swimming, or playing sports.
  3. Mix it up: Don’t get stuck in a rut with your physical activity and exercise routine. Add variety to your routine by attempting novel activities or adjusting the intensity of your workouts.
  4. Set goals: Whether it’s running a 5K or lifting a certain amount of weight, having a specific goal can help to keep you focused.
  5. Make it a habit: Consistency is key when it comes to physical activity and exercise. Develop the habit of regular physical activity by integrating it into your daily routine.This can be as simple as taking a walk after dinner each night or scheduling time for exercise into your calendar.
  6. Be safe: Before starting a new physical activity or exercise routine, be sure to check with your healthcare provider. It’s also important to warm up properly and use proper form during exercise to avoid injury.
By integrating both physical activity and exercise into your daily routine and adhering to the aforementioned suggestions, you can enhance your overall health and well-being. (Julia Larson/ Pexels)

Physical activity as well as exercise both are important for overall health, with physical activity helping to keep the body moving and exercise providing a more structured approach to improving fitness and achieving specific health goals.

By incorporating both into your daily routine and following the tips above, you can improve your overall health and well-being.

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