Perhaps the most misunderstood concept in the fitness industry today among health/medical professionals, media and the general public is the confusion over what proper exercise is and what are recreational activities.
The exercise effect of recreational activities range from little or no exercise effect at all (eg walking, mowing the lawn, golf etc) to the opposite end with more athletic activities like running, mountain climbing, basketball etc. All of these activities are recreational, and the exercise effect is always marginal and incomplete. Just because an activity elevates the heart rate, fatigues you, induces labored breathing or makes you sweat, do not assume you have meaningful, productive and worthwhile exercise. You can actually have the exercise effect without the activity qualifying as exercise.
Part of the definition of exercise is “perform work of a demanding nature”, if an exercise is not demanding it does not qualify as exercise. Another part of that definition is that exercise must produce “meaningfully loading of the muscular structures to inroad strength levels to stimulate a growth mechanism”.
The essence of exercise assumes a purpose of physical improvement, so if the activity does not promote physical improvement i.e. primarily correlated to increased muscular strength – then it is not proper exercise. Strength Training is the only activity that properly satisfies the Definition of Exercise therefore, is considered the only true exercise.
The basic concept with physical exercise is that we are attempting to cause the body to adapt to an imposed stimulus. The body must have a good reason to adapt, or rather it must be forced to adapt. Low intensity, comfortable “fun” activities do not challenge the body beyond its already existing abilities. The body system is simply engaged within its normal capabilities, so there is nothing the body needs to adapt to, nothing extra that requires the body to change. An exercise program must challenge the body over and beyond what it experiences with everyday tasks and activities.
The Six Factors of Physical Fitness
1. Muscular Size, Strength and Endurance
2. Bone Strength
3. Cardiovascular (Heart/Lung) Efficiency
4. Enhanced Flexibility
5. A Contribution to Body Leanness
6. Increased Resistance to Injury
Through exercise we hope to see a continuous improvement in these six factors of physical fitness. If we do not see this improvement, then exercise is either partial or non-existent.
It is accepted that both exercise and recreational activities are important in the overall scheme of strength and fitness and a healthy active lifestyle, and they do overlap to some degree. But so that maximum results are obtained from both or either they must first be defined and then be segregated in practice. The benefits of proper exercise, and the stimuli necessary to produce these benefits, cannot be accomplished with recreational activities.
Exercise is based on the muscular and joint functions of the human body and as we all have these same functions, the general principles and application of exercise are therefore universal and the same for every human being on the planet.
Recreation activity, on the other hand, is personal, fun, chosen pastime activities that are very different for everybody. Consider it a diversion from daily routine and important for our mental health and happiness. Try not to confuse and mix them both together so you can receive maximum physical benefits from your exercise program and maximum fun from your chosen recreational activities.