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Medicine LibreTexts

1.1: Introduction

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  • Inactivity, non-exercise activity, and exercise are the three types of activity we participate in daily. Sitting and laying down are considered physical inactivity or sedentary, and many people spend a substantial portion of their day inactive. Calorie needs are only slightly more than what you need for basal metabolism. How about you? Have you ever counted how many hours a day you spend being inactive? Research studies find people who are obese spend significantly more time during the day physically inactive than people who are not overweight or obese (1).

    Non-exercise activity (also known as NEAT) includes activities that are not sleeping, eating or sports-like activities. Examples of NEAT are walking, standing, gardening, typing, performing yard work, fidgeting, and cleaning house. This type of activity involves muscular activity, so it burns calories and utilizes nutrients. You can significantly increase the number of calories you burn every day by spending more time doing NEAT activities.

    Exercise is the third type of physical activity and includes anything that is a “sport-like” exercise, for example, swimming, running, and bicycling. Muscle movement and metabolism increases during exercise so nutrient and energy requirement increase.

    Physical activity and/or exercise confers many benefits. It improves our mental outlook and capacity, our self-image, our self-confidence, and provides independence for the elderly. Moving can also increase lean body mass and decrease body fat, increases bone mass, and improve heart, lung, and muscle function. Morbidly and mortality are lower in people who are physically active compared to people who are sedentary. Also, the risk is reduced for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, type II diabetes, cancer, particularly colon and breast, osteoporosis and gallbladder disease.


    1: Althoff T, Sosič R, Hicks JL, King AC, Delp SL, Leskovec J. Large-scale physical activity data reveal worldwide activity inequality. Nature. 2017 Jul 20;547(7663):336-339.

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