What's The Real Difference Between Exercise & Physical Activity?

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ePhotographed by Lucy Hewett.
You've probably heard that even as little as 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity a day can be good for your health. That's great and all, but is that really enough to negate the damage from one-too-many holiday parties? Before you strap on that pedometer in a guilt-ridden tizzy, it's first important to understand the difference between conscious movement and a serious sweat sesh.

Physical activity can be defined as anything from biking to work to cleaning your pad, while actual exercise is activity done with a purpose β€” like hitting the gym or going for a run. While any sort of movement is better than being sedentary, it's important to note that if you really want to achieve any noticeable progress with your health and fitness goals, you have to do quite a bit more than read your favorite mag while walking on the treadmill (busted!). According to Barbara Robb, a contributing writer and health expert for Everyday Health, there are four major components you should include in your routine.

For starters, there's cardio-respiratory endurance. If you want to keep that ol' ticker of yours in tip-top shape, you've got to make sure you're constantly upping the ante through aerobic activities such as swimming, cross-country skiing, or even walking. Once you reach a set distance or intensity goal, gradually bump it up so that you're still feeling challenged. Aside from cardio, don't be afraid to lift weights (or jump on a machine) to increase your muscular strength, too. Who said keeping fit was supposed to be easy? Click here to read the rest of Robb's tips, then turn off the computer and get moving! (Everyday Health)