Cayuga Medical Center

Does Physically Active Mean the Same as Physically Fit?

Posted by  //  October 15, 2015  //  Local Business

By Fnu Seemant, MD

Most people believe that if they are able to do the physical activity required at their work or leisure activities, they are physically fit. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they are not synonymous.

Physical activity is any bodily movement or activity that causes energy expenditure. This movement can be related to your job, household chores, leisure-time activities, or transportation. By comparison, physical fitness relates to a person’s ability to perform physical activity.

What does it mean to be physically fit?

To be physically fit you should have: 1) aerobic (cardiovascular) endurance, which is the ability of your heart and lungs to supply oxygen during sustained physical activity; 2) muscular endurance and strength to perform activity without fatigue and with the force needed to do the job; and 3) healthy body composition, which is determined by the relative amount of body fat, muscle, bone mass, and flexibility.

The fit person is able to perform daily tasks with agility, power, and coordination and has sufficient energy to enjoy leisure time and to be able to meet unforeseen emergencies.

To gain the health benefits of physical fitness, what should I do to transition from being physically active to physically fit?

Exercise is a form of physical activity that is planned, repetitive, and purposeful with the goal of achieving or maintaining physical fitness.

If you happen to work at a desk job and are not physically active outside of work, there is still hope. Studies show that the most gains in health are in those people who do no activity and then start to do a little bit. To begin, you can get out and walk, or do some yard-work or housework, or play with your dog. Any form of physical activity counts. Even walking for ten minutes during your work break will begin to make a positive difference.

What are the health benefits of exercise and being physically fit?

About 25 years ago, the American College of Sports Medicine, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), and the National Institutes of Health issued landmark publications that reported a positive relationship between physical activity and health. More recent data from the CDC concludes that physical inactivity leads to about 300,000 deaths annually in the United States alone. By way of contrast, there is increased life expectancy of up to 3.7 years among those who are physically active.

Other specific benefits of exercise include decreased risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and cancer; improved control of diabetes, and better bone health. Exercise helps patients with depression and people who trying to quit smoking. The elderly gain strength and are at decreased risk of falling.

How can I start an exercise program?

Someone without any health issues can start at a low intensity and gradually build it up. Otherwise, to be safe, talk to your doctor before you begin.

The United States Physical Activity guidelines recommend:

  1. 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity (that comes to 30 minutes, five days a week), or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
  2. Muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups performed on two or more days per week

Choose an activity that you enjoy, that fits easily into your daily schedule, and that does not cause you unnecessary financial burden. Finally, exercising with a friend may be more fun for you than exercising alone.

Dr. Seemant is practice with Cayuga Sports Medicine and Athletic Performance, where he can be reached at (607) 272-3580. He is board certified in family medicine, sports medicine, and geriatrics, and he serves on the medical staff of Cayuga Medical Center.

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