Physical Activity Definitions

Here are some definitions of commonly used physical activity terms.

Active Living
An approach to life that values and includes physical activity in everyday living.

Body Composition
The amounts of fat, bone and muscle in your body.

Cardiorespiratory Fitness
The ability of the heart, blood vessels and lungs to deliver enough oxygen to exercising muscles to meet the demands of a workload. Activities like walking, swimming, running and biking that use your body's large muscle groups improve cardiorespiratory fitness and help you have a stronger heart and lungs. Cardiorespiratory fitness can also be called cardiovascular fitness, endurance and aerobic fitness.

Chronic Disease
Any disease that lasts a long time, progresses slowly, doesn't usually improve and is rarely cured completely. Common chronic diseases include heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, and asthma.

Exercise
Physical activity that's planned, structured and repeated.

F.I.T.T. Principle
The four components that make up physical activity.

  • F = Frequency (the number of times per week you're active)
  • I = Intensity (how much effort you put into an activity)
  • T = Time (how long you do an activity)
  • T = Type (the kind of activity you do)

Flexibility
The range of motion (ROM) around a joint. This is what allows you to move easily. Doing flexibility activities helps you have safe and healthy joints and muscles. Its main objective is to improve or maintain physical fitness.

Health-Related Physical Fitness
The kinds of physical fitness that are related to how healthy you are. They include cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular endurance, muscular strength, body composition, and flexibility.

Healthy Living
Living in healthy ways and making healthy choices.

Heart Rate
Number of heart beats per minute.

Low Intensity
A light activity like slow walking that doesn't cause you to sweat or breathe more quickly.

Moderate Intensity
A medium activity that works your body hard enough to raise your heart rate and cause you to sweat and breathe more quickly. While doing an activity of moderate intensity, you're still able to talk comfortably but not sing a song. On a scale of 0 to 10 (with 10 being the maximum amount of physical activity you're capable of), an activity of moderate intensity is a 5 or 6. Some examples are walking fast, yoga, mowing the lawn, playing doubles tennis and riding a bike on level ground.

Muscular Endurance
The ability of a muscle group to keep moving a lighter weight many times without stopping, and without getting exhausted.

Musculoskeletal Fitness
Fitness that includes muscular strength, muscular endurance, power and flexibility.

Physical Activity
Any movement of your body that results in an increased use of energy. This can include leisure activities as well as work. Physical activity is sometimes just called exercise.

Physical Fitness
The ability to do day-to-day activities without getting too tired. If you're physically fit, you can do these activities with energy and alertness, and still have enough energy left over to enjoy leisure activities or respond to emergencies. Physical fitness includes cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, balance, speed, reaction time, and body composition. Physical fitness is sometimes just called fitness.

Physical Health
Having good cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, body composition, healthy eating, avoiding harmful substances and having regular medical check-ups. Physical health usually comes with physical activity.

Resistance Training
Can also be known as strength training, weight training or weight lifting, and includes any activity that results in healthy and strong muscles and bones. Resistance training programs use movements of muscle groups that increase in weight and frequency over time, to increase muscle strength, endurance or power.

Vigorous Intensity
A high-energy activity that causes you to breathe hard and fast, and raises your heart rate. While doing an activity of vigorous intensity, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without stopping for a breath. On a scale of 0 to 10 (with 10 being the maximum amount of physical activity you’re capable of), an activity of vigorous intensity is a 7 or 8. Some examples are jogging or running, swimming laps, cross country skiing, riding a bike fast or on hills and playing singles tennis.

Last Reviewed: December 2016


© 2016 Province of British Columbia. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided the source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a health professional. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.

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