It would be great to start off by first understanding what terms like physical fitness and physical activity mean. Physical activity and exercise are often used interchangeably, but these terms are not synonymous.
Physical activity which could be light, moderate or vigorous, is defined as any bodily movement produced by the contraction of muscles to bring about a substantial increase in the bodies resting energy expenditure.
Exercise is a type of physical activity that consists of planned, structured, and repetitive bodily movement done to improve or maintain one or more components of physical fitness.
These components could either be health related; cardiovascular endurance, flexibility etc or skill related; agility, speed, power etc. These said components of physical fitness, are what makes it possible for individuals to carry out physical activities.
In order for a footballer to play excellently during a football match (activity), he would need components or characters (fitness) such as speed, agility, power, strength and cardiovascular endurance. And to develop these characters, he would need to exercise!
Exercise can be broadly classified into aerobic, anaerobic and flexibility exercises but can also include training that focuses on certain components of physical fitness such as accuracy, agility, power, and speed.
An aerobic exercise is any physical activity that uses large muscle groups that cause the body to use more oxygen than it would while resting. The major goal in aerobic exercise to improve cardiovascular endurance.
Examples of such exercise include running, cycling, swimming, brisk walking, skipping rope, rowing, hiking, playing tennis.
An anaerobic exercise, which can include strength and resistance training can firm up, strengthen and tone muscles as well as improve bone strength, balance, and coordination.
Examples of such exercise include push ups, pull ups, lunges, and biceps curls using weights such as dumbbells. Anaerobic exercises also include weight training, eccentric training, high-intensity training and so on.
Unlike aerobic and anaerobic exercises, flexibility exercises stretch and lengthen muscles. Its goal is to improve range of motion which can reduce the chances of injury. Examples of flexibility exercises include yoga and pilates.
Scientific evidence suggests that exercise may contribute to preventing pathological changes, treating multiple chronic diseases, and reducing mortality and morbidity ratios. It also shows that exercise plays a key role in improving health-related physical fitness components and hormone function.
A note on precautions
Exercise is important for maintaining physical fitness and can contribute to maintaining a healthy weight, regulating digestive health and blood pressure, building and maintaining healthy bone density, muscle strength, and joint mobility, promoting physiological well-being, reducing surgical risks and strengthening the immune system.
Now, as much as exercise is important, there are a few absolute contraindications in which any form of exercise done must be strictly prescribed and supervised.
• Uncontrolled or poorly controlled asthma
• Cancer or blood disorders
• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders
• Heart diseases
• Any acute severe illness
• Unexplained dizzy spells
• In the case of Hypertension with resting blood pressures of greater than 180 for systolic and greater than 100 for diastolic, medication should be given before regular physical activity with exercise type restriction.
Exercise is done for a number of reasons based on its benefits and or effects on the body. Hence, it is advised to be as physically active throughout the day and
- Monk TH, Reynolds CF III, Buysse DJ, DeGrazia JM, Kupfer DJ. The relationship between lifestyle regularity and subjective sleep quality. Chronobiol Int. 2003; 20: 97±107. PMID: 12638693. Exercise physiology available at www.physio-pedia.com/exercise_physiology
- Pescatello LS, Franklin WB, Fagard R et al. American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. Exercise and hypertension. Med well-being sports
exerc. 2004 Mar; 36(3):533-53
- Caspersen CJ, Powell KE, Christenson GM. Physical activity, exercise, and physical fitness: definitions and distinctions for health-related research. Public
Heal thRep. 1985;100(2):126–31.
- President’s Council on Physical Fitness. Definitions: health, fitness, and physical activity. [Internet]. 2000. Available from http://www.fitness.gov/digest_mar2000.htm