Glossary of Terms

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A subset of physical activity behaviour that involves purposive and repetitive movements with the aim of improving cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular fitness or flexibility. Exercise is carried out in a more structured manner, often performed at a greater intensity (more vigorous).

Guidelines and recommendations

Recommendations are statements that advocate a specific practice or behaviour. Guidelines are usually documents containing standardized information with the aim of guiding decisions about prevention, diagnosis, management, or treatment of specific health care issues. National or international health care institutions or government bodies usually produce top-level guidelines. Guidelines reflect the best available and most current scientific evidence. In the area of preventive practice for example, health care professionals rely on guidelines to make recommendations about lifestyle changes to patients and the public.


Metabolic equivalent (MET) is a measurement of the amount of oxygen (energy) used by the body during physical activity, with 1 MET equivalent to the oxygen level used by the body when sitting quietly (i.e. resting metabolic rate), reading a book, watching television or talking. The more oxygen the body consumes during the activity the harder the body works, and the higher the MET value. METs are therefore multiples of the resting metabolic rate. Generally, an activity assigned 3-6 METS is considered moderate intensity and an activity of ≥6 METS is considered vigorous-intensity physical activity.

Multiplying the MET value of an activity by the minutes performed will yield a MET-minute score. For example, to compute MET-minutes per week, the total minutes of vigorous, moderate-intensity and walking are multiplied with the respective MET values of 8, 4 and 3, and totalled to produce the MET-minutes per week.

Moderate-intensity physical activity

Moderate-intensity physical activity occurs when an individual experiences some increase in breathing or heart rate during exercise. However, it should still be possible to carry on a normal conversation (but not singing). Examples of moderate-intensity activities include walking briskly, gardening, dancing, swimming, bicycling, scrubbing floors and housework.

Noncommunicable diseases (NCD)

Diseases related to lifestyle, mainly diabetes and heart disease, and including high blood pressure, stroke, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases.


Pedometer is a battery-operated portable device that is best worn on the belt at hip level and records the number of steps taken by the wearer. The pedometer counts the step taken by detecting the motion of the wearer's hips. The accuracy of various pedometers varies widely. If worn correctly on the hips most pedometers are reasonably accurate at counting steps, although falsely counting steps when the wearer is riding a vehicle is common. To identify the most accurate and reliable pedometers, consult with local health care institutions or professionals.

Physical activity

A broad term that covers a behaviour that involves large muscle movements for various purposes, performed throughout the day. These movements can range from lifestyle activities to sports.

Physical fitness

Being physically fit is the ability of the body to perform physical activity efficiently and effectively in recreation or sporting activities, that is, the capacity of the heart, lungs, blood vessels and large muscles to optimally support the body to perform an activity. Physical fitness can be categorized into the following types: cardiorespiratory fitness or endurance; muscular strength; muscular endurance; body composition; speed, agility, balance and flexibility.

Population Attributable Risk (PAR)

Population Attributable Risk is a measure of the proportion of disease risk in the population exposed to a disease or a risk factor that is associated with or attributable to that exposure. The PAR measure is usually expressed as a percentage.


Sport covers a range of activities performed within a set of rules and undertaken as part of leisure or competition. Sporting activities usually involve physical activity carried out by teams or individuals and are supported by an institutional framework, such as a sporting agency.

Vigorous-intensity physical activity

Vigorous-intensity physical activity occurs when an individual experiences a substantial increase in breathing or heart rate while doing a physical activity. It should not be possible to carry on a normal conversation. Some examples of vigorous-intensity activities include jogging and running, high-impact aerobic exercise, rowing and canoeing, and bicycling uphill.