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Middle English, from Anglo-French exercice, from Latin exercitium, from exercitare to train, exercise, frequentative of exercēre to train, occupy, from ex- + arcēre to enclose, hold off

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  • 1 a : the act of bringing into play or realizing in action : use <the exercise of self-control>
b : the discharge of an official function or professional occupation <exercise of his judicial duties>
c : the act or an instance of carrying out the terms of an agreement (as an option) —often used attributively <an option's exercise price>
  • 2 a : regular or repeated use of a faculty or bodily organ
b : bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness <trying to get more exercise>
  • 3 : something performed or practiced in order to develop, improve, or display a specific capability or skill <arithmetic exercises> <vocal exercises>
  • 4 : a performance or activity having a strongly marked secondary or ulterior aspect <party politics has always been an exercise in compromise — H. S. Ashmore>
  • 5 a : a maneuver, operation, or drill carried out for training and discipline <naval exercises>
b plural : a program including speeches, announcements of awards and honors, and various traditional practices of secular or religious character <commencement exercises>


Physical exercise is any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health. It is performed for various reasons. These include strengthening muscles and the cardiovascular system, honing athletic skills, weight loss or maintenance and for enjoyment. Frequent and regular physical exercise boosts the immune system, and helps prevent the "diseases of affluence" such as heart disease, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. It also improves mental health, helps prevent depression, helps to promote or maintain positive self-esteem, and can even augment an individual's sex appeal or body image. Childhood obesity is a growing global concern and physical exercise may help decrease the effects of childhood obesity in developed countries.