Many men think of physical activity and physical fitness as one in the same but they are actually separate entities. Physical activity has been defined by researchers as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in caloric expenditure.” Physical activity is commonly described by using the following four dimensions (1) frequency, duration, intensity, and type of activity. Exercise is considered a component of physical activity that involves planned, structured and repetitive movements that are performed to improve or maintain physical fitness.
Physical activity is the most variable component of what is known as total energy expenditure (TEE) and can typically account for about 15-30% of TEE. Men, who are extremely active, may see those numbers actually increase to 60-70% when it comes to TEE. Why is this important? Because when someone is trying to lose weight or maintain a specific weight as they age, they need to focus on both, daily physical activity and regular exercise, in order to keep it all in check.
I like to explain it this way to my clients. Make sure you initially wear a pedometer and set a goal and then build-up to walking a minimum of 8,500 to 10,000 steps a day (this covers daily physical activity) while getting to the gym (weekly exercise), typically, every other day, if losing weight is in fact an issue for you.
Both physical activity and exercise are a must but diet is also critical. Wearing a pedometer will help because we know through research that a person who wears a pedometer will walk an average of 2700 more steps a day than people not wearing a pedometer.
The National Weight Control Registry monitors a database of more than ten thousand people who have lost a significant amount of weight, and have kept it off for more than five years. Registry members have lost an average of 66 pounds and have kept it off for 5.5 years. They have shown that in order to be successful you need to focus on many things like eating breakfast every day, walk an hour a day, minimal TV viewing, etc. An interesting fact is only 1% of the group has been successful with exercise alone, while 11% saw success with diet only. The real winners, however, were the individuals (88%) who combined both exercise and diet over the years to maintain their weight loss.
It’s great to get your 30 minutes of exercise in or to put your ASICS on and go for that run but the real key is increasing your daily physical activity. This in turn will ultimately improve your chances of success enabling you to finally reach your health and fitness goals.
Warren JM et al. (2010). Assessment of physical activity – a review of methodologies with reference to epidemiological research. Euro J Card Prev Rehab 17:127-139.
Caspersen C et al. (1985). Physical activity, exercise and physical fitness: definitions and distinctions for health-related research. Pub Health Reports, 100:126-135.