Exercise VS. Physical Activity

The term ‘exercise’ can be interpreted many different ways and mean different things to different people. However, there is a difference between daily physical activity and planned exercise. Physical activity is any movement that is carried out by the muscles that requires energy. An example would be walking to your mailbox to check the mail. Exercise is, by definition, planned, structured, repetitive and intentional movement that is intended to improve or maintain physical fitness. We know that exercise is a key part of good health, as well as a way to lose weight. Small steps can help you stay active every day, whether it is at home or at work.

Benefits of Exercise

  • Improves quality and quantity of sleep
  • Improves mood
  • Slows aging
  • Lowers risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and many types of cancer
  • Improves immune system function
  • Improves memory and lowers risk of dementia
  • Increases energy levels and stamina
  • Helps lower blood sugar and blood pressure
  • Relieves stress
  • Strengthens your heart, muscles, and bones
  • Improves circulation and joint flexibility
  • Prevents injuries and falls

Getting Started

Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can! There are many ways to increase physical activity that do not cost a dime! Start out simple and gradually increase length of time or difficulty. Warm up, cool down, and stretch to prevent injuries and reduce muscle soreness. The best kind of exercise you can do involves a combination of aerobic (cardio) and strength training (weight bearing exercises). This will improve your cardiovascular health as well as increase muscle mass.

How Much Exercise is Recommended?
At least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity AND at least 2 days/week of muscle strengthening activity is the recommendation.

  • OR get the same benefits in HALF THE TIME if you step it up to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (75 minutes/week)

How can you tell if it’s moderate or vigorous exercise?

  • Moderate = If you’re breathing faster/harder than usual but can still maintain a conversation easily
  • Vigorous = if you can only say a few words or none at all before you have to take a breath

Ways to Increase Physical Activity at Home

  • Gardening and yardwork can burn calories (i.e. rake leaves instead of buying a leaf blower or – your neighbors will also appreciate the decrease in noise, and you’ll save money on gas!)
  • Go for a walk after dinner instead of watching TV
  • Get a dog and take it for walks instead of just letting it out in your yard – it’s a win-win for you and the dog
  • Wash your car instead of going through the car wash
  • Have a family or solo dance party
  • Play tag, frisbee, soccer, basketball, hide and seek, etc. with your kids instead of screen time
  • Get up during commercial breaks and use resistance bands/weights or do body weight exercises (jumping jacks/wall sits for example)
  • Instead of hiring someone, do DIY home improvement work like sanding and painting yourself
  • Walk to the mailbox instead of driving up to it

Ways to Increase Physical Activity at Work

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Park further away, take the long way to/from the cafeteria or meetings
  • Get off the train/bus one or two stops early so that you can walk the rest of the way
  • Try incorporating desk exercises if your job is sedentary
  • Walk on lunch breaks, 5-10 minutes is better than 0 minutes!
  • Get a standing desk – every little bit helps!
  • Turn a conference call into a walking meeting by using headphones and getting some steps in instead of sitting at a desk

Ways to Exercise with Mobility Limitations

  • Low impact activities like water aerobics or seated exercise are best for those with mobility limitations
  • Meet with a personal trainer who knows how to work with mobility limitations that can show you modifications to standard exercises to prevent injury and strengthen areas that may help improve mobility
  • Focus on improving range of motion and flexibility first, then work on increasing strength
  • If you have arthritis, physical activity actually HELPS reduce joint stiffness and pain. If you keep avoiding exercise, you will lose muscle mass, get weaker and more stiff making joint pain worse
  • Many people that have back pain do not have strong leg or glute muscles which can make back pain even worse. If this is an issue for you, work with a trainer to determine which exercises can help strengthen those muscles to take the burden/strain off your back




Carley Salas MS, RDN, CDN
By Carley Salas MS, RDN, CDN
Bariatric Dietitian Educator

Carley Salas, MS, RDN, CDN is Garnet Health Medical Center’s Bariatric Dietitian Educator. She received her Bachelor’s and Master of Science Degrees in Nutrition and Dietetics from the State University of New York College at Oneonta. She is a Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist, holds an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management, and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Carley is passionate about nutrition and helping others reach their health and wellness goals through individualized counseling and nutrition education. Carley can be reached at (845) 333-2830 or

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