The Important Differences Between Physical Activity & Therapeutic Exercise

The difference between these three terms may sound like just an academic exercise. In truth, a better understanding of these terms can help many people achieve their goals.

Definition of Physical Activity

Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure that can be measured in kilocalories. This can include gardening, household chores, and even shopping.

Definition of Exercise

Exercise is a subset of [MK1] physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive and has as a final or an intermediate objective of improvement or maintenance of physical fitness. Physical fitness, in turn, refers to capacity in four domains: cardiorespiratory, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility. The fifth domain of physical fitness is body composition.

Exercise Versus Being Active

The advice to exercise 30 minutes per day has been well advertised and well received. However, a new pattern has emerged wherein people are completely sedentary for hours at a time at work and then again at home, but exercise dutifully 30 minutes per day. This pattern, while far better than complete inactivity, still ranks as inactivity and comes with its own health hazards. The World Health Organization has named inactivity as an independent risk factor for chronic disease and resultantly [MK2] ranks it as the fourth leading cause of death. The subsequent advice is to think about physical activity and exercise. Exercise regularly and look for opportunities for Physical Activity[MK3] : standing desks, taking the stairs, parking at the far end of the parking lot, adding a walk to your lunch break, etc.

Definition of Therapeutic Exercise

Therapeutic exercise refers to planned physical activities designed to treat specific impairments and/or reduce the risk of negative healthcare outcomes. By law and for the sake of patient safety, therapeutic exercise tends to be the domain of licensed healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists and exercise physiologists.

Exercise Versus Therapeutic Exercise

Inefficiencies and even problems can develop when people have a specific medical complaint such as back pain, but they receive advice to take up this exercise program or that without professional planning for the specific movements, activities, and progression. Exercise promotes general physical fitness, but in the face of a specific orthopaedic lesion, some activities could be harmful. When the goal is to address a specific impairment, supervision of individual or group activities by a suitably trained and licensed healthcare professional minimizes the potential for injury and maximizes the potential for the most efficient path toward recovery.


 

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