Physical Activity and Exercise

  • Physical activity refers to any activity/movement that expends energy.
    • E.g., walking, biking, hiking, swimming, dancing, and rollerblading.
  • Exercise is physical activity that is planned, purposeful, and structured.  Exercise is done to improve or maintain physical fitness.
    • E.g., running intervals, lifting weights, or flexibility training.

What is physical fitness?

  • Physical fitness is a person’s ability to perform a certain activity efficiently, or can be referred to as a general state of health and wellness. 
  • There are four components of physical fitness which include: Cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body composition.
    • Cardiorespiratory endurance is the body's ability to consume, deliver, and utilize oxygen at the cellular level during sustained physical activity. Cardiovascular endurance activities strengthen the heart and lungs. Examples include: walking, running, cycling, swimming, hiking, and dancing. Choose an activity that you enjoy – you are more likely to continue to be active.

Recommendation: Engage in a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most preferably all days of the week OR engage in vigorous-intensity physical activity 3 days per week for a minimum of 20 minutes per session.

  • Muscular Strength and Endurance is the body’s ability to apply maximal force one time (strength) or repeated times (endurance) with a muscle or muscle group. Resistance training can take many forms, such as weight lifting, practicing yoga, participating in Pilates, and doing exercises with resistance bands and stability balls.

Recommendation: Perform physical activities that enhance and maintain muscular strength and endurance at least 2 - 3 days per week.

  • Flexibility is defined as the range of motion in a joint or series of joints. Examples of activities that aid in flexibility are stretching and yoga.

Recommendation: Perform physical activities that enhance and maintain flexibility at least 2 - 3 times per week, ideally 5 - 7 days per week.

  • Body Composition refers to the relative percentage of body weight that is composed of body fat versus fat free mass (muscle, bone, organs, and water). There are many ways to measure body composition. The skin fold caliper method is one measurement used to determine the amount of fat versus fat free mass in the body. Other techniques include Hydrostatic Underwater Weighing and BodPod, but may be more costly and not as easily accessible.


Body fat percentage, desired health for men: 12-15%

Body fat percentage, desired health for women: 18-25%

  • Body mass index (BMI) measurement is a relative measure of body height to body weight for determining degree of obesity (but it does not take into consideration lean muscle mass). The formula for BMI is: weight (kg)/ height (m)2.

Recommendation: BMI between 18.5 and 25 = desired weight

Tips to develop fitness and active living habits

  • Make time to be active!
    • Actively commute (bike, walk, rollerblade) to school, work, or the store
    • Exercise while watching your favorite TV show, listening to music, or reading
    • Make a weekend hike/bike/walk/run a habit
  • Seek social support from family and friends in the form of:
    • An activity partner
    • Encouragement
  • Take active study breaks (go for a walk with a friend or do some stretches)
  • Train for a race or an event, and schedule your training workouts weeks in advance
  • If you need assistance with designing an exercise program, or you need some motivation, hire a personal trainer
  • Join an active club (dance club, martial arts group)
  • Sign-up for intramurals (see ASU Tempe SRC website)
  • Reward yourself for reaching short- or long-term goals (new pair of running shoes, workout clothes, or get a massage, etc.)
  • Learn about and share information with others regarding healthy eating and physical activity.
  • Buddy-up and do physical activities together.

Fitness and Active Living Links

Resources for Fitness and Active Living

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