Everyone from the FLOTUS to your doctor is advising you to move more and be active. If you’re like us, you shrug it off because you already work out so it doesn’t really apply to you. Or does it?
With so much of our time these days spent behind a desk or on the couch, our sedentary lifestyle is radically different than the active lifestyle of previous generations because our environment no longer demands constant physical activity. Advances in technology have made everything less physically demanding while our time spent sitting has gotten even longer.
Even though you may workout an hour a day, five to six days a week, it’s likely you’re still not seeing the results you want. That’s because being active in addition to working out is key to moving the needle on the scale.
What Does It Mean to Be Active, Anyways?
Physical activity is different than exercise. Any body movement will burn more calories than your body at rest, and whether you’re cleaning house, gardening or walking at a leisurely pace, you’re engaging in physical activity and burning calories.
It may also surprise you to learn that any low-level activity offers substantial health benefits despite its indulgently slow pace.
Exercise, on the other hand, is planned, purposeful and geared toward achieving or maintaining a certain level of fitness. Because exercise is performed at a higher level of intensity, it offers even more health benefits.
How Active Should We Be?
For the best results, you should be as active as possible. Start by adding 30 minutes of activity per day—in addition to your exercise regimen—and keep looking for ways to add in more. Here are some suggestions:
- Commute to work on foot or by bike. Too far? Go halfway and then catch transit.
- Convert one hour of tube time into a daily walk.
- Surfing the net? Do something active instead.
- Walk your dog.
- Play with your kids.
- Take up a hobby like gardening or hiking.
- Walk or bike instead of driving whenever possible.
- Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
- Do yard work or clean the house.
- Go dancing or bust a move in the privacy of your home.
- Conduct “walking meetings” at work. Take your discussion outside and on foot.
Are Physical Activity and Exercise the Same Thing for Everyone?
Here’s where things get tricky. Because everyone is at a different level of fitness, what counts as physical activity for one person can technically count as exercise for another. A 30-minute walk is no great shakes for a fit person, but it can leave an unfit person huffing and puffing.
You’ll love this: As your fitness level evolves, what used to count as exercise can technically devolve into low-level physical activity. Yup, welcome to plateau-ville. If the unfit person continues walking 30 minutes per day, over time it will become less difficult and only count as physical activity. Unless, of course, you make the walk more difficult by increasing speed, distance or incline. Changing these variables will keep the walk in the exercise zone and help avoid the dreaded plateau—at least for a while, anyways.
So technically, intensity separates physical activity from exercise. That’s why it’s critical that anything you deem as exercise is actually done at the right level of intensity. By consistently changing some variable of your exercise and keeping your workout intense, you’ll avoid plateauing.
In a nutshell, if you want to move the needle on the scale, incorporate as much low-level physical activity into your daily routine as possible in addition to exercising at the right level of intensity for YOU.
Have questions? Ask away in the comment section below. Wondering how to measure the intensity of your workout? Stay tuned.