What Is Physical Activity? A Holistic Definition for Teachers, Researchers and Policy Makers

This conceptual analysis presents an argument that a new and broader definition of physical activity is needed for educators, researchers, and policy makers. To build a case for change, this paper has four parts. First, it outlines why definitions are important. second, the stream dominant allele definition of physical bodily process is examined and critiqued. Third, the case for change to the dominant definition is made. Fourth, a newly, broader definition for physical natural process is offered and justified. The new, broader definition of physical activeness is proposed as involving “ people moving, acting and performing within culturally specific spaces and context, and influenced by a unique align of interests, emotions, ideas, instructions and relationships. ”

Introduction

Definitions in educational settings, research, and policy are crucial for respective reasons. Definitions set boundaries on phenomenon and processes. Definitions besides inform policy. Choices about whether to intervene in a health or social problem depend on how the problem is framed and what measures are used to understand the trouble. however, definitions can be contentious and confusing. In a review of literature, Frérot et alabama. ( 2018 ) found 102 ( English ) definitions of “ epidemiology ” and highlighted the evolve nature of the definition over clock. besides recently, a Sedentary Behavior Research Network conducted a literature revue to gather “ any attest of inconsistencies, differences, conflicts, or concerns over variations in definitions ” of sedentary behavior and refer terms ( Tremblay et al., 2017 ). In aiming to produce a consensus definition of sedentary behavior, the inquiry group found at least 12 definitions of “ sedentary behavior ” being used in the academic literature .
Rorty ( 1999 ) notes that we define the manner we do “ because of our needs and interests ” ( p. twenty-six ). In this vein, as a research worker involved in forcible activity, mutant studies, and health promotion, I have witnessed over the last decade increasing attention and interdisciplinarity in the sphere of “ physical bodily process ”. As such, it seems an opportune here and now to critique some of the taken-for-granted ideas which inform and guide educational settings, research, and policy about physical bodily process. Schiappa ( 2003 ) argues that all definitions are linguistic propositions and as such are historically situated, “ and the beliefs that inform definitions are human beliefs that are constantly discipline to revision… ” ( p. 9 ). There is an apparent insufficiency in the existing prevailing definitions of physical activeness to account for its complexity. consequently, this conceptual analysis presents a new, broader definition which might provide opportunities for physical activity to be understood in a more ethical and holistic manner. On this target, Schiappa ( 2003 ) notes there is space to consider the ethical and prescriptive ramifications of the act of specify, and that problems faced by citizens might be better addressed with the acknowledgment that definitions are rhetorically induce social cognition. And so what follows here is not an argument for the ejection of traditional definitions of physical activity. however, by offering a variety to the orthodox definition, teachers, students, researchers, and policy makers can reflect on the strengths and limitations of versatile definitions. further, we might more appropriately connect the speech we use with the physical activity we are concerned with .

Physical Activity—the Predominant Definition

To contextualize the status quo regarding definitions of physical activity, I trace the origin and growth of the most widely accepted definition, published by Caspersen et aluminum. ( 1985 ). They define physical activity as “ any bodily movement produced by bony muscles that results in energy consumption ” ( p. 126 ). This definition produces a very particular manner of sympathy physical activeness. The focus on “ bony muscles ” and “ energy outgo ” frames physical bodily process as a specific mechanistic act. This is illustrated by the vehemence immediately following the definition where the authors focus on how department of energy is measured :

The come of energy required to accomplish an action can be measured in kilojoules ( kJ ) or kilocalories ( kcal ) ; 4.184 kJ is basically equivalent to 1 kcal ( 1 ). technically, the kJ is preferred because it is a measure of energy consumption ; however, historically the kcal, a measure of heat, has been employed more often ( pp. 126-127 ) .
This definition is widely used and accepted within the inquiry community. The article by Caspersen et aluminum. ( 1985 ) has been cited 9490 times in Google Scholar ( at the time of writing ), an indication of its popularity. This definition informs many health policies around the universe ( australian Government Department of Health, 2011 ; World Health Organisation, 2018 ; UK Chief Medical Officers, 2019 ), angstrom well as academician textbooks ( Biddle and Mutrie, 2001 ; Hardman and Stensel, 2003 ), and journals ( Howley, 2001 ; Haseler et al., 2019 ). There does not appear to have been published analysis or criticism of this prevailing definition of physical natural process, except for some little variations of the definition, explained below .

Small Variations of the Definition

There are small variations on this definition. In 2018, the World Health Organisation ‘s ( WHO ) Global Strategy on Physical Activity deployed a little magnetic declination of Caspersen ‘s definition. rather of bodily process resulting in energy outgo, the WHO referred to bodily campaign that “ requires energy outgo ” ( 2018, p. 14 ) .
Variations can besides occur by the same writer. The US Surgeon General ‘s report ( U. S. Department of Health Human Services, 1996 ) defined physical action as
bodily motion produced by the contraction of skeletal muscle that increases energy expenditure above the basal level ( p. 20, italics added ) .
however, on the following page of their report in a glossary, physical activity was defined as :
bodily movement that is produced by the contraction of bony muscle and that substantially increases energy expenditure ( p. 21, italics added ) .
sometimes slight additions are stage. In 1995 the US National Institutes of Health ( NIH ) Consensus Statement inserted “ health benefits ” into the definition of physical action :
“ bodily motion produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy consumption ‘ and produces healthy benefits ” ( National Institutes of Health, 1995, p. 3, italics added ) .
The idea that all physical activeness produces healthy benefits is open to critique, since activities such as overtraining, insistent form, and physical battle might all count as physical activity but do not necessarily produce health benefits for all. Any definition should therefore avoid absolute claims about the benefits of physical natural process on health forwarding .
I argue here that these modest variations to the 1985 definition all concenter on bodily movement, bony muscles and energy consumption. Among them all, the opinion remains the same. The 1985 definition, and the little variations of it are confined to, and thereby constrained by, epidemiology discourse. indeed, the basic prison term by Caspersen is “ The epidemiologic study of any concept or event requires that the item under probe be defined and measured ” ( p. 126 ). By describing the “ elements ” of physical action, the focus is on “ bodily movement, bony muscles, energy expending, kilo-calories ” and a convinced correlation with “ physical fitness ” ( p. 127 ). consequently, the definition proposed by Caspersen is heavily ladle with biomedical values, to the ejection of a lot else. While Caspersen ‘s definition of physical action may be allow for certain epidemiologic studies, it does not do justice to forcible activity outside of that specific domain .

The Case for Change

What follows is an attack to promote definitional “ rupture ” ( Schiappa, 2003 ). The hope is to move the definition of physical activity from its entrenchment in epidemiologic and biomedical hold forth and toward a more inclusive, holistic custom which accounts for the complex nature of physical activity. however, any new definition should besides be accessible and utilitarian to those involved in epidemiology. There is an opportunity to open up the definition of physical action to be more inclusive for many groups, including the academic disciplines that study it, the governmental departments that write policy on it, and the range and depth of human experiences which both produce and are produced by it .

The Narrowness of the Popular Definition

What follows is a review of the Caspersen et aluminum. ( 1985 ) definition : physical bodily process as “ any bodily movement produced by bony muscles that results in energy consumption. ”
The definition must beginning be situated in the specific scientific context and rationale for its initiation. The title of Caspersen ‘s article is “ Physical Activity, Exercise, and Physical Fitness : Definitions and Distinctions for Health-Related Research ”. As such, the terms are situated in a specific domain ( health-related research ), and the article aims to “ distinguish ” between the terms because “ they are much confused with one another, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably ” ( p. 126 ). The authors ‘ rationale may have been thoroughly reasonable, though it is significant to recognize the digressive boundaries and corrective limitations that might be imposed with such aims. By focusing on “ health-related research and epidemiology, ” other implicit in aspects of natural process such as cognition, forcible literacy, social cohesion, and education, are not accounted for. These aspects will be discussed in more detail later .
Caspersen et alabama. suggested that distinguishing between forcible activity, exercise and fitness would assist “ as an interpretational framework for comparing studies ” ( p. 126 ). While this may have been a worthwhile enterprise, the definition has been deployed beyond the kingdom of study comparison and has become established as the most popular definition of physical natural process. It is potential of course, but improbable, that the authors intended the definition for either policy statements, or as a broad, inclusive definition for physical natural process. however, the dominant use of the narrow definition means that there is no space to account for the complex, holistic elements of physical natural process .
indeed, Caspersen et alabama. acknowledge the disciplinary boundaries within the article by stating that “ The epidemiologic study of any concept or consequence requires that the detail under investigation be defined and measured ” ( p. 126 ). The business of epidemiologists to prevent disease and the methodological orthodoxy governing the types of cognition which epidemiology has produced is worth considering. The british Medical Journal supports a definition of epidemiology as “ the learn of how much diseases occur in different groups of people and why ” ( Coggon et al., 2003 ). By framing physical natural process in sexual intercourse to disease-potential and disease management, much is marginalized and ignored. To illustrate this charge, I offer how Pronger ( 2002 ) was troubled by the line between his experience of his active childhood and the “ technological cognition ” within his university studies in physical education :
“ I wrote about ‘ the herculean source, ‘ the wonder and eternity that I discovered in swim. And I said that when I started to study physical education, that dimension was completely lacking from everything we were taught. The technical department of education that I was receiving rendered the wonder second gear. And as I review the array of scientific, government and commercial text on physical fitness, I hear only secrecy in this regard. The technology of physical [ fitness ] seems deaf to this property of life. So the question of secondness hera is : what kind of life is produced in such deafness ? But another question besides arises : what latent possibilities does that silence hold ? ” ( p. 15 )
The reason why the Caspersen et aluminum. definition is still used as the dominant and widely accepted definition is ascribable in part to its chasteness and clearness. therefore, there is an opportunity to examine what is dumb in the dominant allele definition of physical activity. There is distance to acknowledge health aspects of physical activity while besides emphasizing its building complex and multifaceted aspects in a new, broader definition .
The simplicity of the Caspersen definition besides belies what is omitted. Each component of the definition will be critiqued for what it limits or omits. First, the wording of “ any bodily movement ” may be useful in a clinical set, but it unwittingly depersonalizes natural process. Second, the idea that campaign is “ produced by skeletal muscles ” besides limits the knowledge domain of probe to distinctly constrict biomechanical characteristics, alternatively of being produced by an agentic, motivated human. Third, the controversy that physical activity “ results in energy outgo ” omits all else that can result from, be produced by, or created through physical activity. therefore, Caspersen ‘s et alabama. definition is dis-integrated and exclusionary because it emphasizes some elements—the anatomic and physiologic, over others. And so with this context in judgment, there is space to create a more expansive, inclusive, holistic definition of physical activeness, which might inform not only its scientific study, but besides contribute to policy statements, the frame of interventions in populations, and the teach of the subject in physical action, forcible education and health educational settings .

Inherent Aspects of Physical Activity

The following considerations are used to argue what physical activity inherently involves and which aspects should be emphasized or included in a definition. While I accept the discussion by Caspersen regarding what occurs at the “ physiologic horizontal surface ” during physical natural process, there are numerous built-in qualities of physical action that need to be acknowledged to more fully express what forcible bodily process is .

Physical Activity Is Inherently Cerebral

Discussions of the mind use unlike terms—cerebral/cognitive/psychological/emotional/affect, and so on. In any shell, physical natural process is thus innately intertwined with the human thinker as an antecedent ( or incentive ) of action, as the central processor of the know, and as being responsible for remembering and reflecting on the experience, that to exclude it from a definition renders it incomplete. Biddle and Mutrie ( 2001 ) note that :
“ a great conduct of physical activity for health must be freely chosen in leisure time or consciously integrated into one ‘s normal daily act. This, in itself, justifies the increasing importance of studying psychological processes, such as motivation and decision make, in physical activity ” ( p. 7 ) .
psychological theories to explain physical bodily process behavior abound. furthermore, from the COM-B theory, to the “ behavior change roulette wheel, ” to nudging hypothesis ( Forberger et al., 2019 ), psychological theories of motivation have been used to promote physical bodily process through interventions at a population level ( Brand and Cheval, 2019 ). Psychology therefore is the intervention point to inspire or produce physical natural process. built-in psychological components deserve realization as part of physical activity vitamin a much as ( if not more than ) the outgo of energy. Policy text do increasingly mention ideas about mental wellbeing, but they tend not to stray into aspects of “ wonder, ” as discussed by Pronger ( 2002 ). A holistic definition will move beyond “ bodily movement ” to incorporate, appreciate, and celebrate the be experiences that produce physical activity .
physical activity is besides a profoundly affectional, emotional activity. The spectrum of emotions in physical action range from joy and feelings of authorization that can come from active agent games ( Light, 2003 ), to the electric potential for chagrin and anguish for participants in forcible education ( Sykes and McPhail, 2008 ). The 1985 definition never mentions cognition or emotion. Appreciating the full range and meaning of the aroused aspects of physical natural process is therefore imperative to understand forcible natural process in a attack manner .

Physical Activity Is Inherently Social

Whether it is Oxford and Cambridge oarsmen ( Hartley and Llewellyn, 1939 ), Cambridge sportmen ( Rook, 1954 ), or London busmen ( Heady et al., 1961 ), physical action is an inherently social ( and distinctly gendered ) activity. As sociable beings, humans move through space in communion with others ( such as in protest marches ), in contest with others ( in sport ), out of necessity ( for food gather or use ) or for pleasure ( sexual, cathartic or differently ). These endeavors result in an align of productive, creative outputs, which should not be underestimated in comparison with the health benefits that tend to dominate academic converse on physical activity. For example, Bairner ( 2012 ) noted that the health gains of walking “ may well be of secondary importance to the lessons that can be learned from the pedagogies of the street ” ( p. 373 ) .

Physical Activity Is Inherently Situated

It is well-established that physical and cultural spaces shape experiences ( Phoenix and Bell, 2019 ). The ways in which these settings can be described are numerous. Urban-rural, natural-cultural, wild-managed, poor-wealthy, and numerous other varieties of spaces and context produce both opportunities and barriers to the types of physical activities that are possible ( Collins and Kay, 2014 ). In turning physical activity shapes spaces. There is a symbiotic kinship between people, activities and spaces ( Cherrington and Black, 2020 ) .
In the article by Caspersen et alabama. ( 1985 ), the authors do note that while “ the simplest classification identifies the physical activeness that occurs while sleeping, at shape, and at leisure, ” it is besides a “ complex behavior … and may be meaningfully partitioned into other categories mutually exclusive of each other ” ( p. 127 ). This may be appropriate for measuring energy outgo ( as that was the vehemence of the article ) but there is a disjunction between the idea of common exclusivity of categories and the immediately apparent messy interplay between all manner of pressures and influences on physical activeness. This can be seen in the growing popularity of systems thinking and ecological approaches to understand physical action. These approaches situate forcible action as taking identify in, and affected by, a across-the-board assortment of cultural values, economic conditions and physical settings. Rutter et aluminum. ( 2019 ) offer a preliminary analysis of the “ drivers of physical natural process, ” which might be either synergistic or antagonistic in the production of forcible bodily process. The growing range of systems theories shed light on the complex issues which form, and in turn are shaped by, physical activity .

Physical Activity Is Inherently Political

Politics shape the provision and structure of physical action. This occurs at many levels, from state resources for public spaces, to traditional ways that forcible bodily process is provided or promoted. The “ political ” can besides include efforts involved in controlling and judging the activities that people partake in. Therefore, more depth, richness and inclusivity might come from redefining physical bodily process to account for its complexities, nuances, and politics. Writers in physical cultural studies argue that homo movement can and should be considered from a diverseness of levels, including “ the socio-cultural, dianoetic, processual, institutional, collective, communal, corporeal, affectional, and immanent ” ( Silk et al., 2017, p. 1 ). In twin to academic discussions, it is apparent that numerous ideas inform state physical action promotion including and digression from populace health, such as environmental sustainability and education ( see UK Government, 2019 ). Making claims about the importance of some reasons over others is an inherently political act, which requires value judgements about the authenticity and relative importance of craved benefits .
By accounting for such depth in a newfangled, broader definition, we can expand both the think about physical activity and policies which are written for it. By changing the words used to construct a definition ( to include stress on the sociable, psychological and political ), we can remove the minute confines of epidemiologic discourse. Further, by examining the reasons for promoting versatile ideas, we can critically reflect on motivations that may or may not be in the interests of those targeted by policy interventions ( see Piggin, 2015 ). Examining the politics of physical action involves asking assorted questions. Which ideas acquire bulge and are emphasized in eventual decisions ? Whose ideas are marginalized and omitted from policy discussions ? ( Piggin, 2019 ). policy decisions ( and non-decisions ) about physical natural process lend to the dignity, values and life chances of individuals and communities. The rules and values which allow and influence activity should be critically appraised, particularly since all people are subjected to evaluation and judgements of what are “ culturally allow ” activities ( see World Health Organisation, 2018 ). forcible natural process involves an interplay between external factors and internal perspectives, sensibilities, and motivations. This interplay should be acknowledged in a holistic definition .

What is Physical Activity? a new, Broader Definition

Proposing a fresh, broader definition of physical natural process disrupts the current reductionist ( simplistic ) explanation of physical action in privilege of emphasizing the holistic ( complex ) nature of it. Given the orthodoxy that the Caspersen et aluminum. definition has established, such a disturbance might besides be identical utilitarian. Expanding the definition may illuminate newfangled ways of thinking about physical activeness and open up diverse ways of education, researching and making policy for physical activity. academically, it emphasizes interdisciplinarity and inclusion, and provides opportunity to question, criticism, lionize, and create new ways of talking about and thinking about physical natural process. Related to this, questioning the orthodoxy may besides be met with significant resistance. many users of the Caspersen definition may ignore challenges or indeed defend the condition quo .
Understanding more about one ‘s own activity might besides be a benefit of a broader definition. One justification for this is to allow the lived experiences of people to be recognized. The aim is to move beyond the boundaries of epidemiologic discourse or disease prevention and toward an citation of the dynamic, building complex, and evolving align of reasons and emotions involved in forcible action. The fresh and broader definition is provided below :
Physical activity involves people moving, acting and performing within culturally specific spaces and contexts, and influenced by a unique array of interests, emotions, ideas, instructions and relationships.
This definition was first introduced in the bible The Politics of Physical Activity ( Piggin, 2019 ), though this is the first base prison term that the diverse justifications are explained in detail. There are numerous benefits of an expanded definition .
first base, it prioritizes people moving over muscles moving. Of course, this change does still accommodate kinesiologists. Focusing on people moving does besides include biomechanical and physiological aspects of natural process. however, for the aim of inclusivity, it redirects attention to the person rather than skeletal muscles or energy as kilojoules in the beginning case. An expand definition emphasizes complexity, the environment and the human experience. Accommodating the cognitive, affectional and located aspects of physical bodily process will allow users and teachers of the definition to account for the complexity of physical activeness ( see Pronger, 2002 ). The inclusion of sociable and cultural context and the align of influences allows for the consideration of opportunities and constraints to forcible natural process .
second, by discussing acting and performing arsenic well as go, the definition appreciates the productive and creative potential that comes from physical natural process. Distinct and in contrast with the original definition ‘s stress on energy expenditure, the new definition imagines that much more is created through physical natural process ( such as the outcomes of british labour party, aesthetic performances and emotional, memorable experiences ) than spent. By shifting away from a focus on effort ( measured by technical apparatuses ) we can more appropriately acknowledge and appreciate the stove of other reasons for people being active .
Third, by emphasizing inclusivity, complexity, and the holistic, we can problematize the dualism ( separation of the mind from the body ) which emanates from Caspersen ‘s original definition. Questioning dualism allows the lector to move aside from a discourse of the “ consistency as machine ” and incorporate ideas about the “ soundbox as self ” ( see Whitehead, 2001 ). As such, a new, broader definition may be particularly useful for introductory university classes on physical bodily process, across a assortment of disciplines .
Fourth, a new, broader definition might be useful in reframing policy interventions, beyond disease gamble as a justification. This is not intended to marginalize the aesculapian aspects of physical activeness, though it is intended to resist against over-medicalization. This definition might open new ways of talking about activeness, particularly within a policy sphere. For policy makers, it might elevate rights and values associated with physical natural process to a higher priority, preferably than the health benefits of physical action remaining as the dominant allele justification for forcible bodily process interventions. That is, there is more to health than physical activeness, and there is more to physical activity than health. It might besides stimulate fresh ways of thinking about the topographic point and meanings of physical activeness for different people and different sectors of club. As the starting point for inquiry studies it might provide impetus toward more inclusive questions and settings for research to take place .
Fifth, when people move they are influenced by a unique range of interests, emotions, ideas, instructions, and relationships. By acknowledging and prioritizing this, users of the definition can consider the wide range of intrinsic and extrinsic factors that are “ unique ” to each person ‘s experience of physical action. These interests, emotions, ideas, instructions, and relationships ( which I argue are omnipresent before, during and after physical action ) might well be marginalized when there is a concenter on “ energy outgo. ”
There are parallels between the definition presented hera and early disciplines. For writers on physical literacy ( who themselves define physical literacy in diverse ways ), the concern is much round “ the motivation, confidence, physical competence, cognition, and understanding to maintain physical activity throughout the animation course ” ( Whitehead, 2013 ). interestingly, one systematic review of physical literacy deferred to the WHO definition of physical action and suggested a relation between the two concepts ( Edwards et al., 2017 ) .

Discussion

A proposal for a new, broader definition of physical activity might be discomforting for some users of the Caspersen et aluminum. ( 1985 ) definition. however, the variety of benefits from an expanded definition, coupled with the increasing interdisciplinarity of physical activity in the academic and policy spheres, indicates a more inclusive definition is significant ( see Table 1 ). physical education, physical literacy, and physical cultural studies are all disciplines which have attempted to confront the complexities inherent within them to forge newer, more utilitarian definitions. There is no apparent reason why the domain of physical bodily process has not seen a thrive kind of definitions. The Caspersen et alabama. definition does not seem to have been capable to critical scrutiny in the past. possible reasons include an epidemiologic community that is largely quenched with the definition or a miss of want or desire to account for the holistic nature of physical action .

table 1

www.frontiersin.org

Table 1. Elements of the Caspersen et alabama. ( 1985 ) definition, compared with the Piggin definition ( 2019 ) .

While the definition presented here advances the conversation about what physical natural process is, the author does not claim definitional certainty. indeed, quite than advocating for immediate consensus around this definition, a battalion of definitions is welcomed and encouraged, particularly since by doing indeed, more critical conversations can be held about what to include and what to leave out. consequently, rather than consensus, it is hoped that this definitional disruption will open space for discussion and celebration of what can count deoxyadenosine monophosphate physical activity, what contributes to it ( beyond calorific energy ) and what is created by it. While Edwards et aluminum. ( 2017 ) and Tremblay et aluminum. ( 2017 ) advocated establishing a “ consensus ” for their definitions of physical literacy and sedentary behavior, respectively, this article argues for the inverse. There is a particular necessitate for a definitional rupture to reframe physical activity to include the variety of built-in aspects that have traditionally been subjugated in prefer of dis-integrated anatomic and physiologic aspects. Moving away from reductive simplicity and toward fantastic complexity will probable contribute to a deeper admiration and more nuanced reason of physical action .

Author Contributions

JP conceptualized and wrote the wallpaper .

Funding

open access tip supplied by discretionary research fund at the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University .

Conflict of Interest

The generator declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or fiscal relationships that could be construed as a electric potential conflict of interest.

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