As a trainer I get these questions regularly: “Will I get a toned body by going for a daily walk?” or “Will I get a bubble butt by doing the elliptical every day?”.
Unless your goals are very modest, the answer to these questions is almost always a no. Performing general physical activities such as walking, vacuuming, and other daily chores will generally not give you specific results, if that’s what you are looking for. That’s not to say that such activities are useless. They are in fact beneficial for maintaining good health. The US Surgeon General and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of daily moderate cardiovascular exercise, equivalent to 150 minutes weekly, or 10-11 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular exercise daily, about 75 minutes per week. In addition it is suggested performing full-body muscle strengthening exercises a minimum of two days each week.(1)(2) Unfortunately, as of 2013, only 20% of American adults meet the minimum requirements for exercise.(3) Combine inactivity with a poor diet and you have yourself set up for developing a number of lifestyle diseases.
While physical activity is beneficial for health, training and physical activity are not equated. Physical activity is any movement that requires more energy than being at rest. As I am typing this I am performing a (very low-intensity) physical activity. Other examples of physical activities are grocery shopping, taking the dog for a walk, or cleaning the house. Training or exercise is one type of physical activity. Training is per definition a planned, structured, and goal-oriented physical activity with the goal being improvement or maintenance of a specific trait, skill, or performance. Often the focus is on one or more aspects of physical fitness or performance, such as speed, strength, power, or body composition.
Although variation can be important, the key to training for specific results is specificity, i.e. training specifically for what you want to achieve. Endurance training will not result in significant muscle hypertrophy. Likewise, lifting weights will not prepare you for running a marathon. It is crucial to train for what you want to accomplish. Failing to do so is likely to result declining motivation and likely abandonment of exercising completely. Also, don’t be afraid to change strategies if what you’re currently doing is not working. It doesn’t mean that you have failed. It just means that you haven’t found the right approach for your goal yet. When you find something you like that yields results – stick with it.