Physical Activity vs. Physical Fitness

As a Soldier, it is important to be physically active as well as physically fit to be prepared for combat. The terms physical activity and physical fitness are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference in these terms.

The Differences

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Physical activity involves day-to-day actions that keep the body moving and blood flowing, whereas physical fitness consists of workouts that elevate heart rate and perspiration.  Both physical activity and physical fitness are equally important to a healthy lifestyle. 

For those looking to increase their daily physical activity amount, it may be helpful to insert small bouts of activity spread throughout the entire day. 

For example:

  • Take the stairs as often as possible
  • Park as far away from the door as possible
  • Go for a family walk after dinner (don’t forget the dog!)
  • If sedentary at work, take small “walking-breaks” at least once per hour         

FITT

Whether for personal fitness goals or in preparation for the APFT, service members are often searching for new ways to increase their physical fitness.  When creating a new workout, it is important to remember the FITT formula. The factors in this formula can determine the success of a fitness plan. Consider a few recommended guidelines regarding the FITT formula:

Frequency: 3-5 times/week

Intensity: target heart rate range

Time: 20-30 minutes

Type: varied  

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Bottom Line: Although both are essential for a healthy lifestyle, there is a difference between physical activity and physical fitness.

Army H.E.A.L.T.H. and the Performance Triad

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As introduced in a previous Army H.E.A.L.T.H. blog post, the fundamental components of the Performance Triad are nutrition, activity, and sleep. Emphasis has been placed on these three elements due to their ability to impact mental and physical performance. Interested Soldiers and their family members can utilize the tools on the Army H.E.A.L.T.H. website/mobile app to aide in the practical application of these three essential elements to their lifestyle.

How? Army H.E.A.L.T.H. works in conjunction with the Triad to offer custom nutrition and fitness plans in addition to sleep material specifically designed for military personnel. Whether looking for a new exciting fitness routine, or ideas for healthy, energizing meals, Army H.E.A.L.T.H. is the bridge that connects the Performance Triad to Soldiers and their family members.

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Eating a healthy diet is imperative for maintaining peak physical and mental performance. Soldiers face their own unique set of environmental factors that may either help or discourage healthy eating practices. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. can help Soldiers make the right dietary choices. The custom meal planner provides a detailed list of foods tailored for an individual’s specific requirements. For those with specific food preferences or needs, foods can easily be removed or modified.

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Most Soldiers share the common goal of maintaining a high level of physical fitness. However, no two Soldiers have the exact same fitness needs, routines, equipment, etc. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. can help Soldiers achieve their fitness goals by providing a custom made fitness plan according to each person’s individual goals. The fitness plan provides a detailed exercise routine that is made specifically for each individual. Exercises are easily removed or modified to accommodate for injury or lack of equipment. The Army H.E.A.L.T.H. Fitness planner even takes each Soldier’s next scheduled APFT into consideration when creating a new plan.

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Most service members know that it is recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night…a recommendation that is often easier said than done. In the Army, lack of sleep often results from operational requirements or high-operations tempo training. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. provides information regarding how to improve sleep quality and quantity under the most difficult, military specific situations. Resources are also provided for working with commanders and peers to ensure that Soldiers are enabled to get enough sleep and, therefore, function optimally.

What is the Army Performance Triad?

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The Performance Triad is a comprehensive plan that encourages Soldiers to make healthy choices regarding their physical activity, nutrition, and sleep habits. The Triad focuses primarily on activity, nutrition, and sleep because these components all interact to influence performance and health.

Nutrition

Whether training to be a Soldier Athlete or striving for a higher level of personal fitness, it is important for Soldiers to stay hydrated and fuel their body with the right food for the right job. It is especially imperative to build an eating strategy that will complement the requirements of each individual mission. Focusing on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole wheat carbohydrates is fundamental to building a healthy plate.

Activity

Practicing a safe and effective fitness routine is essential to prevent injury and overtraining, maintain physical readiness, and improve overall health. But, physical activity encompasses more than just PT or exercise at the gym. Moving more (at least 10,000 steps/day) throughout the entire day has been linked with improved health outcomes such as reduced blood pressure, improved glucose levels, and maintenance of a healthy weight.

Sleep

The adverse effects of chronic sleep loss include poor mental and physical performance, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and increased risk of obesity, to name a few. Barriers such as noise, light, and dietary choices may interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. Add the diverse, demanding lifestyle of a Soldier in the mix, and things only get more complicated. Practicing healthy sleep habits can be the key to ensure clear thinking and optimal performance. Sleep 8 to be great!