Glossary of terms used in Exercising WELL

Glossary of Terms Used in Exercising WELL


Physical activity is any and all movement. Most often we move to take care of something or someone else. Exercise is when you move in a specific way for the purpose of improving a specific skill or ability. Exercise when done to improve health and well-being is different from general physical activity or sports training. In this article, the word exercise means moving with the specific purpose of taking care of your body and mind, improving how you feel and function both now and in the future.  


Exercising Well

When you are exercising well you have the skills and knowledge so you are:

  • Exercising the right way for your body to build and maintain the strength, stamina, and mobility that allows you to function your best, even as you age
  • Self motivated to exercise regularly, even through the ups and downs of life
  • Able to adapt exercise so it is a consistent resource for reducing stress, maximizing health so you are feeling and functioning as well as possible each day



Self-motivation is when your brain easily chooses to do something without the need for someone else to make you do it or relying on an external incentive to get you motivated. Self motivation for exercise stems from the understanding that the brain is hardwired to avoid what makes you feel worse, and repeat what makes you feel better. Motivation to exercise regularly, then, is greatly dependent on how it makes you feel, both physically and mentally. Knowing how to exercise right, and how to listen to your body, are keys for adjusting exercise so it leaves you feeling better, so that your brain wants you to continue doing it. This is how exercise becomes a habit you do regularly without relying on someone or something to make you do it.  




Mindfulness is paying attention to what is happening in the present moment with curiosity, rather than judgement, and kindness, rather than criticism. It allows you to listen to and learn from your body so exercise can help you feel and function better. Mindfulness has been shown to be a key skill for self-motivation and habit-building, as well as improving health and well-being by lowering stress levels. 


Mindset has been shown to be a powerful factor in the ability of a medical treatment to work (i.e., the placebo effect), as well as in habit-building. You can have a  fixed mindset about something, believing you are hardwired a certain way or that past ‘failures’ mean you cannot do something. This mindset limits motivation. A growth mindset is when you believe you can change, that the past does not predict the future. This is the mindset that supports lasting motivation. In this article, I challenge you to be aware of how your past experiences with exercising may be limiting your ability to use exercise in the way that can help and offer perspectives that build a growth mindset about exercise.  



Mobility builds freedom of movement through exercises like stretching and balance. When your body is free to move, it is more likely to want to move more frequently during the day.  Mobility exercises are most effective as mindful movement breaks in your day to avoid stress buildup while regaining freedom of movement.  



Strength is the ability to move your body against gravity. By moving the way the body is designed, strength training helps you feel and function better from day one without soreness or worry about injury, all in less than 1% of your time each week. 



Stamina is the ability of your body to move for extended periods of time without getting tired and needing to stop. Cardiovascular exercises such as walking, swimming, biking, and dancing, build stamina. Cardio is about much more than your heart, though. When done the way the body is designed to build stamina, it improves the function of your brain and body, and takes less than 1% of your total time per week.