What is the difference between exercise and physical activity?

Individuals often find themselves wanting to incoporate more physical activity into their daily lives for a variety of different things. This could be related to wanting to improve physical characteristics of themselves, or even gain a mental edge in their life. Regardless of the reason, they know they need to simply move more. This is where things can get confusing, as the term “exercise” and “physical activity.” Let’s take a look at the difference between the two!

Physical Activity:

Physical activity is essentially any activity you do outside of sitting and doing light work (answering emails on the computer.) Physical activity is sporadic and often happens throughout our day without much thought. When thinking of physical activity, we can look at activities of daily living like getting groceries at the grocery store, bringing a bin of laundry of the stairs, or shoveling snow at this type of activity. Physical activity simply happens as part of our day, whether or not we intend to get “healthier” from it.


When talking about exercise, I always like to use the phrase “planned and purposeful.” Exercising is when you take time out the day, to be physically active for a specific reason. An example of this could be, taking thirty minutes out of your morning to take a brisk walk, to work on your cardiovascular health. As we can see here, the different between the two lies with intent. Exercise is done to improve a specific aspect of fitness, while physical activity is simply the movement we do day to do to complete activities of our lives.

Although similar, I think understanding the distinction difference between physical activity and exercise is important. Someone could tell you to be more “physically active,” but not necessary say to “exercise.” To be more physically active has a very broad meaning, while exercising serves a specific goal in regards to health or fitness. Thanks so much for checking out our article! Make sure to share with others who might be interested!!

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