Check out these helpful definitions for Rethinking Exercise. Even if you know these terms, the real definitions may surprise you. 

Exercise:“something practiced to improve a skill or ability” (

Physical exercise: “movement practiced improving a skill or ability” (adapted from above dictionary definition). Exercise can be to improve skills and abilities instantly, such as reducing stress, improving focus, or relaxing your body, as well as over time, such as balance, bone strength, metabolism, and stamina. What skills and abilities you practice depend on your Real Results that we spoke about in our coaching session. This definition also reminds you that ‘what counts’ as exercise could be moving for one minute or an hour. The time does not matter as much as the focused attention on your body to get the skill or ability most important to you.

Physical activity: “any bodily movement” (World Health Organization).  Common physical activities include housecleaning, child care, yardwork, activities for your job, and recreational activities. The majority of the time the purpose of physical activity is to get something done, to take care of someone, or do a task. This is an important difference between exercise and physical activity. Your attention is on the task with a physical activity. To improve a skill or ability, your attention needs to be on your body (more on this later). Physical activities like recreation or play can certainly have value for our wellbeing as well, but exercise is a unique type of physical activity that is done for the sole purpose of improving a skill or ability.

Exercise training principles:the science-based facts about the way your body responds and adapts to exercise. The four main principles are:

  • Individuality: Responses to exercise vary person to person and day to day.
  • Reversibility: Your body gets used to what you give it, in both directions.
  • Specificity: You get what you train for so exercise design starts with knowing exactly what you want from it.
  • Progressive overload: The body adapts gradually, just like a seedling growing into a plant. The process cannot be sped up with more exercise.

Following these principles means you are working with your body, making the time you spend exercising more efficient and effective. Knowing these principles makes it much easier to choose only exercises and programs that will get you your Real Results.

Fitness:“the ability to do activities of daily life with ease so you have energy left over to handle stressors and do the things you enjoy” (paraphrased from the Centers for Disease Control definition). That’s it! Fitness is not about how you look or how well you perform compared to someone else. Exercise done well improves the ability to do the physical activities you want and need to do in life with more ease and enjoyment.

Three main qualities of physical fitness:

  • Strength: the ability to move your body efficiently with minimal wear and tear.
  • Mobility: the ability to move your body freely. Mobility is really a collection of skills and abilities including flexibility, balance, and agility (the ability to move quickly with control).
  • Stamina: the ability to move comfortably for extended periods of time without getting tired and needing to stop and rest.

Weight loss: a method for getting to state where you feel and function better. Weight loss as a goal can be done without exercise, but feeling and functioning better is the result of exercising well. Losing weight on the scale could mean losing strength, stamina, and mobility or it could mean you gain it. That dependsfullyon whether you ‘practice’ those skills and abilities (exercise) while you are losing weight.

Whole-person fitness: if you take another look at the definition of fitness and the purpose of weight loss, it’s clear that exercise is not just physical. You could be at an ideal body weight, be able to do amazing physical feats, and look fit by cultural standards but still not be handling stressors well, enjoying life, feeling good about yourself, or even be healthy. In other words, it is very possible to look ‘fit and trim’ but not be well. Exercise needs to consider your whole person to achieve true fitness.

Wellbeing:“the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy” ( Just like fitness, being well is more than physical; being well includes all parts of you.

Put this all together and exercise is a powerful resource that allows you to gain and maintain the skills and abilities you need to be comfortable in your mind and body and go through everyday life with a bit more ease so you the energy to do more things you enjoy.