Physical activity is defined as any movement produced by the body that requires energy expenditure. In other words, there are an infinite number of ways to meet the physical activity recommendations published by public health authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO). We don’t have to go to the gym to be physically active.
Exercise on the other hand, is a type of physical activity that is planned, structured, and goal-oriented (e.g. improve a physical ability, increase energy, decrease stress). Again, there an infinite number of activities that can be used as exercise, and by extension, physical activity.
Engaging in regular physical activity (or exercise specifically) is to critical to our health and wellness. It is also necessary at times improve or maintain fire fighters’ capacity to meet the demands of the job. However, the pursuit of becoming more active is not synonymous with starting an exercise routine. Opportunities to be physically active exist everywhere!
Although regular exercise can help fire fighters build and/or maintain their capacity to meet the demands of work, life and play, establishing resilient physical activity habits should be viewed as an essential first step. Exploring opportunities to be more active every day, in any environment will help make it easier to choose the active option.
Categorizing Physical Activity
The WHO’s Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that we engage in specific durations and intensities of physical activity each week to receive health benefits. The guidelines do not, however, define in any strict sense, the specific types of activities that should be performed. Any physical activity (performed for the recommended times at the recommended intensities) counts! Likewise, there are no specific environments favored over others. Again, any physical activity counts! The IGNITE program highlights three general categories to help fire fighters track how and where they are physically active. The categories of Work, Life, and Play are described below.
Any physical activity undertaken to fulfill duties and obligations during paid or voluntary work (as a fire fighter or otherwise) falls in the Work category. This does not include on duty exercise (would be categorized as play).
Examples of work-related physical activity include cleaning the apparatus, general station duties such as lifting, manipulating equipment, walking, or carrying, attending to calls, moving about the station, and/or station grounds for work-related purposes, training activities, etc.
Physical activities undertaken in or around the home for domestic duties or completed as an essential activity of daily living fall in the Life category. This includes transportation (walking, cycling) for the sole purpose of getting to or from a particular location. These are essential activities that NEED TO BE PERFORMED.
Examples of life-related physical activity include cleaning, yard work, caring for children, house maintenance, shoveling snow, grocery shopping, taking care of pets, etc.
Any physical activity that is not required as an essential activity of daily living or work task falls in the Play category. These activities are performed at the discretion of the individual for leisure or pleasure (may include transportation). These are non-essential activities that WANT TO BE PERFORMED.
Examples of play-related physical activity include sports, exercise, going for a walk, dancing, fishing, playing with kids, intimacy with partner.
Accumulate as many minutes as you can from each category every week!