Exercise Vs. Physical Activity: The Sequel

“Never before has a man written so much about so little…*EXPLOSION*.”

As a follow-up to my blog post that garnered loads of views, I wanted to touch on a couple more points regarding exercise and physical activity. This isn’t a ladder building up to some grand point per se, rather some thoughts:

  • Physical activity and exercise are, to a large degree, all about loading. Physical activity (“movement”) is about load variety and frequency, unaccounted for as a free-living human being. Exercise is about load intensity, accounted for in a specific manner. Put another way, physical activity is largely about load resistance in service of a larger goal, whereas exercise can be thought of as load management in service of a specific adaptation (that serves as a foundation toward a larger goal).
  • Humans have ~42 (depending on how you count) discrete articulations that are the foundation of the near-infinite movement patterns we can create. Strengthening the tissues in line with these articulations transfers to any movement we would like to improve upon as long as we practice the movement.
  • The psychological value of structured exercise vis à vis resistance training cannot be understated. Doing sufficiently effortful work with muscle tissue reduces the perceived fragility that individuals may have. You not only build strength, but you feel stronger, thereby leading to doing more things (i.e. more physical activity).
  • But that said, resistance training leads to more spontaneous physical activity (and here. and here, to name a few). The “active phenotype” is real.
  • An analogy I like to make: driving a minivan like a Ferrari does not a Ferrari make. If you’re in a broken body, move movement creates favorable outcomes, which may be expedited (and risks limited) through proper resistance training.
  • The corollary is this: in order to get better at driving your Ferrari, you have to drive your Ferrari. Having a garage queen body disrespects your genetic heritage.
  • Finally, a colleague of mine (Bryce Lee, DPT) noted the following: “movement” is how we remind our bodies of which capacities we need to maintain/preserve, while “exercise” is how we remind our bodies of which capacities we need, but lack.
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