In the literature, the terms physical inactivity and immobilization are largely used as synonyms. The present review emphasizes the need to establish a clear distinction between these two situations. Physical inactivity is a behavior characterized by a lack of physical activity, whereas immobilization is a deprivation of movement for medical purpose. In agreement with these definitions, appropriate models exist to study either physical inactivity or immobilization, leading thereby to distinct conclusions. In this review, we examine the involvement of oxidative stress in skeletal muscle insulin resistance and atrophy induced by, respectively, physical inactivity and immobilization. A large body of evidence demonstrates that immobilization-induced atrophy depends on the chronic overproduction of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS). On the other hand, the involvement of RONS in physical inactivity-induced insulin resistance has not been investigated. This observation outlines the need to elucidate the mechanism by which physical inactivity promotes insulin resistance.