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How to Start Being Active

Physical Activity and Exercise

Exercise is a type of physical activity that some people enjoy. Other people aren’t interested in exercise at all.

Physical activity and healthy eating can help you stay at a healthy body weight and prevent some types of health problems.

What’s the difference between physical activity and exercise?


Exercise is a type of physical activity that you plan. You do it to improve your muscle strength, flexibility, and aerobic fitness (heart and lung health).

Here are some examples of exercise routines:

  • strength training 3 days a week (2 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions)
  • whole body stretching exercises every day
  • 30 minutes on a treadmill

Exercise can make you feel better and have more energy.

Physical Activity

Physical activity is any activity that gets you moving. Common types include:

  • household physical activity such as vacuuming or cleaning
  • workplace physical activity such as lifting boxes or walking for longer than 10 minutes
  • lifestyle physical activity such as carrying a basket at the grocery store instead of pushing a cart
  • active transportation such as walking to the store
  • leisure time physical activity such as playing sports or exercising

A complete physical activity program still needs to include muscle strength, aerobic fitness (how long you can do something), and flexibility (how well you bend, twist, or move). You can add these when you need groceries by:

  • walking to the store
  • carrying the groceries home in a backpack or a couple of bags
  • putting food cans in the very back of the cupboard and alternate between using your left and right hands

What’s best—physical activity or exercise?

Many people find it hard to get enough physical activity and exercise. Physical activity can help you to have better mental and physical health, especially if you sit a lot (are sedentary). Stay active doing things you like and can fit into your regular routine. It doesn’t matter if you exercise, do other types of physical activity, or a combination of both, as long as you start moving.

Don’t Let Anything Stop You

There are always reasons to stop you from being active like:

  • no time
  • it’s not easy or it’s too much trouble
  • don’t like to be active
  • don’t feel like you can be safe or do it right
  • hard to get there
  • don’t feel motivated

Some ways to get past these reasons not to exercise:

  • be active for shorter times all through the day (such as going for a walk for 10 to 15 minutes a few times a day, always carry bags of groceries instead of using a cart)
  • start a walking group at work during lunch or at home with your neighbours to make being active more fun and interesting
  • do activities like bowling or swimming instead of going out for dinner with your family

Some activity is better than none. The more you do, the better. Finding activities you enjoy and that are practical is an important first step to become active. Being active regularly will improve your health.

Current as of: October 24, 2018

Author: Chronic Disease Prevention, Alberta Health Services