By: Thomas Baker
Do I have to hit the gym a few times each week, or does walking around and taking the stairs earn me a get-out-of-gym-free card? Is an active lifestyle better than exercise for weight loss? These questions have been around for a while, but they’re popping up more and more often as people try and find the best ways to stay healthy and fit, so we’ve got the explanation below.
Many Western lifestyles, especially typical American lifestyles, tend to be pretty…still. We commute to work, sit at our desks, commute home, then unwind on the couch a bit before heading to bed. Over the past few decades, Americans have been told that they can offset the hours of sitting with 30 minutes of daily exercise. But, research suggests that the time we spend sitting could have more of an impact than we thought! Some of us may commit to a workout routine to get us moving while others opt to include movement more naturally into our days, but is one better than the other, and what’s the difference?
What is an Active Lifestyle?
An active lifestyle is way of life in which physical activities are integrated into daily living. These activities are frequent and include movements such as:
- Taking the stairs
- Walking/biking/or standing on public transit for your commute
- Practicing sports with your kid
- Chasing around or playing actively with your family
- Walking to stores or restaurants rather than driving
- Going to see a co-worker instead of sending an email
The options are only limited by your individual schedule. Those working more labor-focused jobs that have them on their feet, moving, and lifting heavy objects are going to find that their lifestyle is typically much more active than that of an office worker who sits for 8+ hours each day.
This combination of physical activity with recreation encourages a healthier lifestyle, but is it enough compared to exercise?
What is Exercise?
Exercise, like an active lifestyle, includes movements that use energy. The difference is that exercise is the structured, repetitive and intentional movements that aim to meet a goal. These goals are often separate from health and include targets such as: running faster, jumping higher, lifting heavier, or swimming further.
Usually, the people who choose exercise over an active lifestyle are the ones who live the typical American lives – drives to and from work, sits most the of the day at a desk, and takes the elevator over one flight of stairs. For them, exercise tends to be scheduled or planned as a deliberate attempt to use physical activity to offset the day’s stillness and positively influence their health and weight. This could be planning to lift 3x per week or scheduling a cycling class each night after work. Of course, this isn’t everyone! There are plenty of people who enjoy being on their feet all day and still hit the gym.
Which Is Better?
Now that you know the difference between the two, we can take a look at which is actually better for you! Not so surprisingly, the answer is going to depend on your goals.
Minimum Requirements: To hit the recommended 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, both exercise and an active lifestyle will get you there! Hitting the gym 3-5 per week for 30 minutes knocks out 90-150 minutes right there! Conversely, choosing the furthest parking spot, reffing a soccer game, and opting to walk where you need to go adds up fast, and makes it totally possible to meet those same requirements.
Physical Changes: That being said, there are definitely benefits of movement that can only be gained from vigorous physical activity normally found in structured movement – a.k.a. exercise. This means that you’re going to have to pump up the intensity of your movements to see any drastic changes in areas such as:
- Weight Loss
- Improved Body Composition
- Increased Strength
- Improved Cardiovasular Endurance
You can see improvements in these areas by adding physical activity into your da, but the changes will not be as drastic and will come much more slowly. It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t neglect physical activity if you’re exercising. That 30-minutes on the treadmill is not nearly enough to undo 8 hours of sitting!
The Verdict: The answer to which is better- an active lifestyle or exercise – is both! It ultimately comes down to choosing whichever one that YOU can stick with and will help you reach your goals. If you hate going to the gym and dread the treadmill, try walking over lunch, taking the stairs, and going on a walk again after dinner! If you have a strict schedule or have other mobility limitations, then do your best to really push yourself at the gym and take advantage of daily opportunities to move as much as possible.
Finding time to exercise is important to reach your health and fitness goals, but your activity doesn’t need to be restricted to the gym. You don’t have to get crazy with it – just keep your body in motion as you work towards your personal fitness and wellness goals!
Download these songs and start your aerobic activity:
- Started Out – Georgia
- I Follow Rivers (The Magician Remix) – Lykke Li
- Freelance – Toro y Moi
- Meant to Be – Robotaki
- Wiggle – Huntly
- Abc – park hye jin
- On My Mind – Jorja Smith & Preditah
- Only You – Theophilus London feat Tame Impala
- Sundress – A&AP Rocky
- A.L – Touch Sensitive feat Daniel Wilson