Physical Activity

Many people use the terms physical activity and exercise interchangeably but they have different definitions. We encourage you to move your body in a way that feels good!

Physical Activity


Physical Fitness

Physical activity is a broad term that encompasses any physical movement that requires you to use your muscles and expend more energy than you would while resting.

Exercise is a more specific form of physical activity; it has to be movement that is structured, planned, and repeated in order to improve or maintain physical fitness. 

Physical fitness is viewed as the ability to carry out daily activities with ample energy and without feeling fatigued.

Physical fitness is a set of health-related and skills-related attributes that a person has or achieves.

*Definitions from the American College of Sports Medicine.

How much physical activity is recommended?

  • According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), all healthy adults aged 18-65 should get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity on 5 days each week. Moderate intensity can be measured in different ways, but it is generally 64-76% of your maximal heart rate.
  • If you engage in vigorous intensity (77-95% of your maximal heart rate) aerobic physical activity, the ACSM recommends at least 20 minutes on 3 days each week
  • Activities that improve or maintain physical strength are recommended at least 2 days each week

To determine what your target heart rate should be, first calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Then, multiply this number by your desired % intensity. 

Image of 4 students wearing masks in the snowy outdoors with snow shoes on walking towards the foreground.

What counts as physical activity?

Physical Activity has 4 domains: Domestic, Leisure, Occupational, and Travel.

Domestic physical activity is things like cleaning, gardening, and other activities you do around your home.

Leisurely physical activity is done during non-work or school times. Some examples are purposeful exercise, hiking, yoga, playing sports, swimming, snowshoeing, and many other fun activities.

Occupational physical activity is done as part of your job or role. This can be anything from lifting materials to purposely trying to be more active during work time by standing more.

Travel as a domain of physical activity means getting from one place to another in an active way, like walking to your car, biking to school, walking to class, etc.

Page last modified June 13, 2022