|Photo Credit: McVay Physical Therapy|
Monday, May 23, 2016
Exercise as Therapy: Part 1
Did you know that participating in physical activity and fitness can have beneficial effects across several physical and mental-health outcomes? This blog will cover physical aspects of exercise as therapy and the mental/social aspects will be covered later. Whether you exercise or engage in physical activity daily, weekly, or even occasionally you are on the road to improving your overall health. Generally, participants engaging in regular physical activity display more desirable health outcomes across a variety of physical conditions.1
Physical Activity or Physical Fitness?
Physical fitness refers to a physiological state of well-being that allows one to meet the demands of daily living or that provides the basis for sport performance, or both. Health-related physical fitness involves the components of physical fitness related to health status, including cardiovascular fitness, musculoskeletal fitness, body composition and metabolism. Physical activity and physical fitness are often used interchangeably, with fitness commonly being treated as more accurate (albeit indirect) measure of physical activity than self-report. Physical fitness appears to be similar to physical activity in its relation to morbidity and mortality but is more strongly predictive of health outcomes than physical activity. Most analyses have shown a reduction of at least 50% in mortality among highly fit people compared to low-fit people.2
Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure. The energy expenditure can be measured in kilocalories. Physical activity in daily life can be categorized into occupational, sports, conditioning, household, or other activities. A commonly used approach is to segment physical activity on the basis of the identifiable portions of daily life during with the activity occurs. Exercise is a subset of physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive and has a final or an intermediate objective the improvement or maintenance of physical fitness. Everyone performs physical activity in order to sustain life; however, the amount is largely subject to personal choice and may vary considerably from person to person as well as for a given person over time. Physical activities can be subdivided into categories of physical activity such as, those that are of light, moderate, or heavy intensity; those that are willful or compulsory or those that are weekday or weekend activities.3
Physical fitness is a set of attributes that are either health or skill- related. The degree to which people have these attributes can be measured with specific tests. Being physically fit has been defined as “the ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and to meet unforeseen emergencies.” The skill-related components of physical fitness are defined as agility, balance, coordination, power, reaction time, and speed. The health-related components of physical fitness are cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, body composition and flexibility. Just as the amount of physical activity ranges from low to high, so does the level of physical fitness. The five health-related components of physical fitness are more important to public health than are the components related to athletic ability. Moreover, the levels of the five health-related components need not vary in concert; for example, a persona may be strong but lack flexibility.3
People who engage in exercise at levels above 30 minutes of exercise a day are likely to gain further health benefits. Health promotion programs should target people of all ages, since the risk of chronic disease starts in childhood and increases with age. The goal is that all individuals should exercise so that they benefit from the positive effect of prevention of other diseases. Nonetheless, both physical activity and fitness are strong predictors of risk of death. It is argued that it is preferable to encourage people to become more physically active rather than to become physically fit, since sedentary people will likely achieve the latter if they do the former.2
1Penedo, F. J., & Dahn, J.R. (2005). Exercise and well-being: A review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity [Abstract]. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 18(2), 189-193.
2Warburton, D.E.R., Nicol, C.W., & Bredin, S.S.D. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: The evidence. CMAJ, 174(6), 800-809. doi:10.1503/cmal.051351
3Caspersen, C.J., Powell, K.E., & Christenson, G.M. (1985). Physical activity, exercise, and physical fitness: Definitions and distinctions for health-related research. Public Health Reports, 100(2), 127-131.