In order for an activity to be considered exercise, there are three components that need to be fulfilled – type, time and intensity.

It refers to the type of activity you are involved in. Going for a walk; walking the dog; running; gardening; washing the car; and exercising in the gym are all different types of physical activities.

In order for an activity to be considered exercise, it must meet the criteria of the two other components mentioned below.


It’s also referred to as duration. For the elderly and physically impaired, the duration can be as short as 20 minutes. For the general population, the duration of exercise should be no less than 30 minutes.

The duration can also be accumulated all day – meaning, you can break down your activity into three short durations of 10 minutes each and still call it exercise.

However, if you do this, the type of activity you do must meet the following component.


For the activity to be an effective form of exercise, the intensity of the activity must be moderate to vigorous. There are a few ways to measure intensity.

One is through heart rate. Without being too specific and jargonistic, in general, moderate intensity would be between 110 beats per minute (bpm) to 135bpm. In fitness language, that would be 55 to 75% of your target heart rate.

Another way to measure intensity is through the feel factor. Heavy breathing with light perspiration would be moderate intensity. Hard breathing would, of course, be vigorous.

With these three components, the last additional piece of the cog to the exercise wheel is frequency. Three times a week would be the bare minimum frequency for exercise, together with the above three components in place, to be effective.

Simply put, for exercise to be effective in the long run for results or plain health maintenance, one should be working out to various types of activities with a frequency of at least three times a week, at least 30 minutes each time in duration for each session at a moderate to vigorous intensity.
With that, you would have fulfilled the FITT principle for exercise. Now here's a few personal opinions on what I think constitutes as exercise:

Do be realistic on what you can call exercise. Is golf an exercise? If you actually do walk 18 holes and play without a caddy, yes. Line dancing? Quite subjective here. If line dancing is fast enough to hit a moderate intensity, yes.  Yoga? Again subjective, but I say, not quite. There are some forms of vigorous yoga that do raise your heart hate. Most do not. Sorry, yoga aficionados. Going out for a walk is not quite exercise. Well, yes, it’s exercise if you walk briskly at a pace of roughly 6kph for at least 40 minutes.  The first 10 minutes do not count, as that constitutes your warm-up. Well, yes it does if you are above 55. At that age, walking would be a moderate if not vigorous activity. And again, the activity should be maintained for at least 40 minutes.

Finally, lets point out a fast fact on intensity that was mentioned above. Perspiration is not a clear indication that your activity is intense, especially since humid Malaysian weather makes you sweat pretty much anywhere. My brother-in-law perspires beads of sweat just eating curry fish head! And that’s not exercise.

This article was contributed by Jonathan Tan, who has been in the fitness industry for the past 10 years as a personal trainer, fitness consultant, and is currently a Sarge for REBEL BOOT CAMP. For more details, email or call 016-348-1038