Activity Vs. Exercise – Part Two

Happy Friday, Everyone!

Yesterday, I wrote about how important it is for each of us to avoid long periods of inactivity, whether that includes formal exercise or not. Today, however, I’m going to tell you why structured workouts are so important.

During the weeks that I was renovating our new home, I was plenty active. I spent hours every day scrubbing, scraping, squatting/standing, climbing up and down ladders, hammering and painting. I have no doubt that all of this activity burned as many (or more) calories every day than I normally do (when I am less active in general, but working out regularly).  My weight didn’t change much at all.

But my body did.

I lost muscle, especially in my arms, and by the end of my month-long exercise hiatus, I noticed a cushier layer of fat around my waist. While neither of these things were desirable, they weren’t nearly as bad as the other problem I had from all of this activity without exercise – repetitive use injuries!

All of my hours of doing the same movements over and over took a huge toll on my body, leaving me feeling truly crippled at times. There were days when I could hardly make a fist, let alone grip anything. My back was in serious pain and threatening to “go out” on me (as my mom would say) for a stretch of ten days or more. There were times when I wondered if I would even be able to exercise again once we were done with the renovation and the move.

Of course, had I kept up with my exercise routine, I could have avoided or significantly reduced all of these ill effects.

A well-structured exercise regimen does a few things that daily activity cannot. First, it targets specific body systems (cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, etc.) of your choosing, and improves them. The structured nature of a workout lets you decide which benefits you want to focus on, where daily activity can offer only random health benefits. (Of course, you learned yesterday that those random benefits can be very important!)

Second, a good exercise routine will actually undo a lot of the damage that results from our bad daily habits. If you sit all day and your posture has suffered as a result, the right exercises can help straighten you out and alleviate pain and other problems. If your job is a more physical one, exercise can help correct other postural imbalances or asymmetries caused by repetitive movements, poor ergonomics, side dominance, etc.  So, those ailments of mine could have been a lot less severe if I had taken the time each day to do the right exercises.

Finally, in a 2013 study that pitted formal exercise against routine daily activity, a positive correlation was shown between exercise and lower BMI, but not between routine physical activity and lower BMI.

So, which is more important to your health – activity or exercise? Well, of course the answer is…Both!

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