Exercise and Activity (cont.)

Common physical activity and fitness terms

Calorie: A measure of energy from food. (3,500 kilocalories of food energy = 1 pound of body weight). Also the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1° C (1000 calories = 1 kilocalorie). An interesting fact: When we see "Calories" on a food label it is actually measuring kilocalories.

Cardiorespiratory fitness: (also called aerobic endurance or aerobic fitness). Cardiorespiratory endurance is the ability of the body's circulatory and respiratory systems to supply fuel and oxygen during sustained physical activity.

Exercise: Exercise is physical activity that is planned or structured. It involves repetitive bodily movement done to improve or maintain one or more of the components of physical fitness-cardiorespiratory endurance (aerobic fitness), muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition.

Household physical activity: Household physical activity includes (but is not limited to) activities such as sweeping floors, scrubbing, washing windows, and raking the lawn.

Inactivity is not engaging in any regular pattern of physical activity beyond daily functioning.

Kilocalorie: The amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 kg of water 1° C. Kilocalorie is the ordinary calorie discussed in food or exercise energy-expenditure tables and food labels.

Leisure-time physical activity: Leisure-time physical activity is exercise, sports, recreation, or hobbies that are not associated with activities as part of one's regular job duties, household, or transportation.

MET:The standard metabolic equivalent, or MET, level. This unit is used to estimate the amount of oxygen used by the body during physical activity. 1 MET = the energy (oxygen) used by the body as you sit quietly, perhaps while talking on the phone or reading a book. The harder your body works during the activity, the higher the MET.

  • Any activity that burns 3 to 6 METs is considered moderate-intensity physical activity.
  • Any activity that burns
  • 6 METs is considered vigorous-intensity physical activity.

Moderate-intensity physical activity:Moderate-intensity physical activity refers to a level of effort in which a person should experience:

  • Some increase in breathing or heart rate
  • a "perceived exertion" of 11 to 14 on the Borg scale
    • the effort a healthy individual might expend while walking briskly, mowing the lawn, dancing, swimming, or bicycling on level terrain, for example.
  • 3 to 6 metabolic equivalents (METs); or
  • any activity that burns 3.5 to 7 Calories per minute (kcal/min)

Occupational physical activity: Occupational physical activity is completed regularly as part of one's job. It includes activities such as walking, hauling, lifting, pushing, carpentry, shoveling, and packing boxes.

Physical activity: Physical activity is any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that result in an expenditure of energy.

Physical fitness: Physical fitness is a set of attributes a person has in regards to a person's ability to perform physical activities that require aerobic fitness, endurance, strength, or flexibility and is determined by a combination of regular activity and genetically inherited ability.

Regular physical activity: A pattern of physical activity is regular if activities are performed:

  • most days of the week, preferably daily;
  • 5 or more days of the week if moderate-intensity activities (in bouts of at least 10 minutes for a total of at least 30 minutes per day); or
  • 3 or more days of the week if vigorous-intensity activities (for at least 20-60 minutes per session).

Note: These are minimum recommendations, greater health outcomes can be achieved by doing additional types activities and/or increasing time spent doing activities.

Transportation physical activity: Transportation physical activity is walking, biking or wheeling (for wheelchair users), or similar activities to and from places such as: work, school, place of worship, and stores.

Vigorous-intensity physical activity: Vigorous-intensity physical activity may be intense enough to represent a substantial challenge to an individual and refers to a level of effort in which a person should experience:

  • large increase in breathing or heart rate (conversation is difficult or "broken")
  • a "perceived exertion" of 15 or greater on the Borg scale;
    • the effort a healthy individual might expend while jogging, mowing the lawn with a nonmotorized pushmower, participating in high-impact aerobic dancing, swimming continuous laps, or bicycling uphill, carrying more than 25 lbs up a flight of stairs, standing or walking with more than 50 lbs for example.
  • greater than 6 metabolic equivalents (METs); or
  • any activity that burns more than 7 kcal/ min

Weight-bearing physical activity: Any physical activity that imparts a load or impact (such as jumping or skipping) on the skeleton.

Medically reviewed by Martin E Zipser, MD; American board of Surgery

Last update: 5/11/2006

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control

References listed:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2000 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Prevalence Data, 2002. Available at http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/brfss/ Accessed December 19, 2002.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth risk behavior surveillance-United States, 2001. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2002;51(SS-4):1-64.
Jones DA, Ainsworth BE, Croft JB, et al. Moderate leisure-time physical activity: who is meeting the public health recommendations? A national cross-sectional study. Archives of Family Medicine 1998;7(May/June):285-289.
Pate RR, Pratt M, Blair, SN, et al. Physical activity and public health: a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine. Journal of the American Medical Association 1995;273(5):402-407.
Pratt M, Macera CA, Blanton C. Levels of physical activity and inactivity in children and adults in the United States: current evidence and research issues. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 1999;31(11):S526-S533.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical activity and health: a report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 1996.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy people 2010: understanding and improving health. (2nd ed.). Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) 1996 & 1998. Active Community Environments. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2000.
Information in the "Getting Started" section was adapted from: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention & Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research. Personal energy plan-physical activity: steps for adding PEP to your life. Dallas: Cooper Institute; 1999. To order a printed copy, contact 800-635-7050, x-3230 or E-mail: bshp@cooperinst.org.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical activity and health: a report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; 1996.


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/4/2014

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