Physical Activity and Exercise

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43.6% of ASU students surveyed met the American College of Sports Medicine Guidelines for cardiorespiratory (aerobic) exercise.

39.2% of ASU students surveyed performed strength enhancing activities at least twice during the 7 days prior to being surveyed.

Sources: American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment: Arizona State University Metro Phoenix Campuses Spring 2018. Baltimore: American College Health Association; Spring 2018 (n=1,304).


Physical activity refers to any activity or movement that expends energy - walking, biking, hiking, dancing, swimming, and rollerblading.

Exercise is physical activity that is planned, purposeful, and structured. Exercise is done to improve or maintain physical fitness. Exercise may include running, lifting weights, aerobic classes, and flexibility training.

Physical fitness is a person’s ability to perform a certain activity efficiently. It is also referred to as a general state of health and wellness.

Four Components of Fitness

There are four components of physical fitness which include: Cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body composition.

Cardiorespiratory Endurance is the body's ability to consume, deliver, and utilize oxygen at the cellular level during sustained physical activity. Cardiovascular endurance activities strengthen the heart and lungs. Examples include: walking, running, cycling, swimming, hiking, and dancing. Choose an activity that you enjoy – you are more likely to continue to be active.

Muscular Strength and Endurance is the body’s ability to apply maximal force one time (strength) or repeated times (endurance) with a muscle or muscle group. Resistance training can take many forms, such as weight lifting, practicing yoga, participating in Pilates, and doing exercises with resistance bands and stability balls.

Flexibility is defined as the range of motion in a joint or series of joints. Examples of activities that aid in flexibility are stretching and yoga.

Body Composition refers to the relative percentage of body weight that is composed of body fat versus fat free mass (muscle, bone, organs, and water). There are many ways to measure body composition. The skin fold caliper method is one measurement used to determine the amount of fat versus fat free mass in the body. Other techniques include Hydrostatic Underwater Weighing and BodPod, but may be more costly and not as easily accessible.


There are many benefits attributed to physical activity, exercise and physical fitness. These benefits include:

  • Helps maintain a healthy weight
  • Supports weight loss or weight gain goals
  • Improves strength and endurance
  • Enhances energy
  • Enhances quality of life
  • Improves cognitive function
  • Improves cardiovascular health and insulin sensitivity
  • Reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Helps preserve bone mass
  • And more

Recommendations for physical fitness across the four components include:

Cardiorespiratory Activity (Aerobic Exercise): Engage in a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most preferably all days of the week OR engage in vigorous-intensity physical activity 3 days per week for a minimum of 20 minutes per session.

Muscular Strength and Endurance: Perform physical activities that enhance and maintain muscular strength and endurance at least 2 - 3 days per week.

Flexibility: Perform physical activities that enhance and maintain flexibility at least 2 - 3 times per week, ideally 5 - 7 days per week.

Body Composition:
Body fat percentage, desired health for men: 12-15%

Body fat percentage, desired health for women: 18-25%

Body mass index (BMI) measurement is a relative measure of body height to body weight for determining degree of obesity (but it does not take into consideration lean muscle mass). The formula for BMI is: weight (kg)/ height (m)2.

Recommendation: BMI between 18.5 and 25 = desired weight

Take time to be active

There are plenty of ways to move your body without thinking about it as physical activity.

Did you know that walking burns 3 – 5 times the calories that sitting does? And simply standing up increases energy and blood flow, boosts metabolism and improves posture. Research also shows that standing and moving improves attention and focus, and boosts productivity. Why then does the average American spend 55% of waking time in sedentary positions?

Tips to develop fitness and active living habits

  • Make time to be active!
    • Actively commute (bike, walk, rollerblade) to school, work, or the store
    • Exercise while watching your favorite TV show, listening to music, or reading
    • Make a weekend hike/bike/walk/run a habit
  • Seek social support from family and friends in the form of:
    • An activity partner
    • Encouragement
  • Take active study breaks (go for a walk with a friend or do some stretches)
  • Train for a race or an event, and schedule your training workouts weeks in advance
  • If you need assistance with designing an exercise program, or you need some motivation, have a personal trainer from your Sun Devil Fitness Complex assist you.
  • Join a sports club (dance club, martial arts group)
  • Sign-up for intramurals
  • Do activities you enjoy!
  • Reward yourself for reaching short- or long-term goals (new pair of running shoes, workout clothes, or get a massage, etc.)
  • Learn about and share information with others regarding healthy eating and physical activity.
  • Buddy-up and do physical activities together.
  • Sun Devil Fitness offers a wide variety of programs and services. You are certain to find activities that you will enjoy.
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