#Wellnesswednesday and #workouwednesday are perfect hashtags for figuring out if there is a difference between physical activity and physical exercise. People say they “get their exercise” from cleaning the house, taking care of young children, gardening/mowing the lawn, etc. While those activities do take energy and make you tired after a few hours or all day of doing them, are they truly exercise?
The medical definition of physical activity is the quality or process of exerting energy or of accomplishing an effect. Per the definition, physical activity does result in fatigue from exerting energy for any duration. Nothing is specific about what kind of process or the purpose of that process. Also, nothing is mentioned about health related benefits. Is physical activity important to an overall healthy lifestyle? The answer is absolutely yes. You need to be physically active at some point during the day to engage various muscles of the body and elevate your heart rate above its resting state. The definition applies to all age groups, there is no discrimination. After cleaning the house or mowing the lawn, the physical activity does have a caloric use value, and possibly enough muscle contractions to have a growth or strengthening effect.
The medical definition of physical exercise is physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive for the purpose of conditioning any part of the body. Exercise is used to improve health, maintain fitness and is important as a means of physical rehabilitation. Exercise is a physical activity, but so much more! Back to mowing the lawn and cleaning the house, those activities are not planned, structured, and repetitive for the purpose of conditioning any part of the body. To say “I got my exercise today because I cleaned the house,” is false. Cleaning the house is NOT exercise.
For children and adults over 65 there are various guidelines from the CDC on how much physical activity and physical exercise each group needs per day and week. Be sure you know what is appropriate for your current fitness level and seek professional help when appropriate. Let us be honest with ourselves when we look in the mirror and see the results of physical exercise in our lives. Similar discussion to being busy vs productive, know the difference and make the changes in your life. The internet has allowed everyone of all income levels to have resources and information about physical exercise, take advantage of it. Living longer, healthier, and happier are pretty good reasons to exercise for a healthy and active lifestyle.
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Every Monday and Friday morning I teach an exercise class that has become predominantly people over 55 with the oldest being 86. Besides the physical health benefits, they also enjoy talking to each other and the socialization that occurs. I could be a drill sergeant type and make them workout harder with no time to talk, but that will only drive them away and reduce their enjoyment of showing up. Not everyone likes to workout in a group. I also see a number of seniors on machines in the fitness area of my health club staying to themselves. Either way is fine, overall point being to be active and healthy.
Why do I allow the class participants to roam around some and skip a few movements here and there? Because if exercise is not fun to an extent, my class will be empty. Livestrong talks about socialization also improving memory through companionship and interaction. In previous blogs I have discussed the benefits of physical exercise on neuroplasticity, and adding a social outlet can stimulate the brain further to push off signs of dementia. As the seniors sing to songs of their adolescent and young adult years, they don’t consciously realize all of the benefits their brains are receiving from the multitude of stimuli. Complex resistance movements, cardiovascular, and forced cognitive functioning through conversation is the best of all worlds.
From a personal trainer standpoint, it is important to vary the movements for continued physical and mental progress. One of the downfalls to attending the same class regularly is the lack of development when the body does the same thing for 4 weeks or more. The FITT (Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type) must change regularly for the body to adapt and improve. This is a biological fact regardless of a person’s age and also important to reduce injuries from over training the same body parts in the same directions. Vary everything, including working out alone and with groups. Change is beneficial to improved physical and mental fitness over time. For an example of a program that can be done anywhere, anytime, in a group, or alone, check out Movement Academy for only $10.95 a month.
If you have any questions, email me (Matt Peale) at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am certified by NASM as a personal trainer and have been so since 2009. Thanks for reading!
My company has changed names to Movement Academy from Learn To Move Academy. A big part of that change is to share the ongoing scientific developments about physical exercise being important to cognitive functioning at various stages of life from young to old. The brain is susceptible to development, and in this case development just means any change, in the adolescent stage and old age stage. Obviously youth is in a progressive development and old age in a regressive development. From a physical standpoint, both age ranges are also similar in balance and stability issues, so the mental similarities make sense.
Physical exercise has been found to have a positive effect on executive functions in both adolescent and aging adults (Barenberg et al., 2011; Best, 2010). What kind of physical exercise is important? Studies vary on whether coordination, balance, resistance, or stretching/toning. All of them play an important role and need to be included as part of any exercise program. Aerobic exercise is a critical factor across all levels of development (Chaddock et al., 2012; Kramer et al., 1999;
Pontifex et al., 2011), and can be accomplished in whatever manner is fun and appropriate for the individual. As always, consult your doctor for guidelines if you are new to exercise.
In common language, what does all the scientific jargon mean? The simple answer is start moving at your level if you are sedentary or have minimal physical activity. Different areas of the brain light up with specific movements of the arms, legs, and torso. Which movements do what, science is not sure yet, just that moving improves brain functions. Scientists do know that the hippocampus is the area of the brain most positively affected by physical exercise. The hippocampus is responsible for memory and learning functions, so using it in new ways helps your overall ability to stay focused on everyday tasks. We all want to live longer and without assistance, so get out there and exercise your brain by exercising your body.
For more information on an example of a physical exercise program to improve brain function, go to the Movement Academy site and see if it is right for you. If you have questions or comments, email Matt Peale at email@example.com