Background and Peak Activity. What are they and how are they different?

As I have said before (click here), to change ourselves physically, we have to change our behaviour and habits.  To change anything successfully, we need to know the starting point.  A simple but effective way to find out a persons current activity levels is to look at their Peak Activity and Background Activity. So what the hell are they?

Peak Activity.

Peak Activity

Peak Activity

The relatively brief periods of time when you are working significantly harder than normal.  Your blood is pumping, you’re breathing heavy, your muscles are working hard and you are generally working harder than usual. Examples include:

  • Training sessions
  • Gym sessions
  • Running for your life from a mad axe-man

Background Activity.

This is what we do every other waking hour.  The “normal” level of activity that you experience during your waking hours, that is not taken up by Peak Activity.

Background Activity

Examples include:

  • Your day job
  • Your leisure time before and after work
  • Pottering round the shops
  • Whatever you tend to spend your days off doing
It is important to fully understand the difference between Background and Peak Activity.  And the difference is how hard you are working.  It does not matter where you are, or what you are supposed to be doing.

“It is about what you are doing, and how hard you are doing it.”

I have spoken to many people who say they go to the gym 4 times a week, but they don’t actually do any real work.  They might just sit on a bike peddling slowly while watching the tv, or they may turn up to a training session and just “go through the motions”.  This can not be counted as Peak Activity, as it is not any harder than their normal Background Activity.

Having said that, a firefighter might go to his/her day job and work incredibly hard to save someone from a burning building.  While a “day job” is usually classed as Background Activity, the physical work they do in this particular situation defiantly is Peak Activity.

Once you have an honest idea about your Background and Peak Activity levels, you can start adjusting them to suit your own personal goals.  Exactly how you adjust these levels will depend on:

  • What your goals are
  • What time limit you have
  • How far from your goals you are
  • How important your goals are to you

I’m going to talk a bit more about Background and Peak Activity in the next couple of posts, so check back again soon, or just subscribe using the RSS feed or email subscription (they should be somewhere near the top on the right hand side of the page).

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