A Publication of WTVP

The most destructive and misunderstood concept in fitness today among researchers, commercial health facilities, and the general public is the confusion between exercise and recreation. All of us probably agree that both exercise and recreation are important in the overall scheme of health and fitness, and both overlap to some degree. However, to reap the maximum benefits of both or either one, these terms must be well defined and segregated into practice.

In recent years, many of the national health and fitness organizations have been inappropriately lowering the standards of exercise and telling people to “relax,” “go at an easy pace,” “stop if you feel discomfort,” and “exercise should be fun.” We’re told activities such as gardening, grocery shopping, cleaning the house, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator all qualify as exercise. However, an active lifestyle doesn’t replace the need for a structured exercise program. Exercise and physical recreational activity are two completely separate entities.

The initial reasons for performing exercise are purely physical. Simply stated, exercise is a process whereby the body performs work of a demanding nature. The initial purpose of recreation is to enhance your mental health. Recreation is defined as activities that are diversions from your daily routine. It’s something you choose to do because it’s fun. One mistake people make is to condition themselves through recreational activities. A person may experience some fitness benefits from physical recreational pursuits, but they’ll be marginal and incomplete.

If an activity increases your heart and breathing rate, generates muscle soreness, or makes you sweat, don’t assume you’ve exercised. Many people assume the objective of an exercise program is to discover how much weight they can lift; how many repetitions they can perform; how far or fast they can walk, run, and swim; or how long their heart beats within the target heart rate zone. This misguided approach often leads to poor results, over-training, injuries, and frustration. The real objective of exercise is actually simple. Exercise is a stimulus that acts upon the body to make the body itself produce a response (growth and improvement). It’s the same process of creating a suntan. The sun doesn’t make the suntan; the body does. The sun is only the stimulus.

If you confuse exercise and recreation, you will grossly compromise any forthcoming physical benefits of exercise; you destroy a large degree of the fun recreation should supply; and you will make both more dangerous than they need be. If you can place exercise and recreation in the proper perspective, the quality of your life will markedly improve. IBI