How To Make Time to Exercise
Fitting in Exercise With a Busy Life
Making time to exercise is difficult! Do you feel like you are busy from sunrise to sunset? You probably are. I know I am! I have four children, a job, I manage my Type 1 diabetes, run a household and volunteer. Yet, I've trained for and run seven marathons the past few years. I get some form of exercise just about every day. As a result, my weight and blood tests are in good, healthy ranges.
Health and fitness experts suggest that we get 5-6 hours of moderately intensive exercise every week. How is that possible with all the competing demands on our time? Its not always easy, but it can be done.
Here are 10 tips to help you make time to exercise, no matter your lifestyle or fitness level. Put aside the excuses and let's get on the path to a healthier you!
Make Time to Exercise!
Making Exercise a Priority
There are a million excuses we can create to avoid exercise. You might even be thinking that you simply don't have time to fit it in. Your daily routine can attest to that, right?
But you do need to make exercise a priority, just as much as eating, getting sleep and making it to work on time. Here are some tips to help you make time to exercise!
1. Plan ahead and schedule exercise into your day. This is where a day planner or a smart phone scheduling application comes into handy. Block out several 20 minute increments or a full hour over lunch for a walk, a run, or to attend a fitness class. Set it as a health appointment; no further explanation necessary!
2. Divide and conquer. If you don't believe you can find a continuous hour to exercise, then break it up into smaller increments such as 1/2 hour twice a day, or 20 minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is especially important if you are new to exercise. Take that time you would normally spend on Facebook and unplug. Head outdoors and you'll soon be back to the tasks, emails and "friend requests" that await!
3. Reassess the demands on your time and make cuts, if necessary. If you truly are overscheduled, then its time to make good health and exercise more of a priority. Enjoy volunteering in your child's class? Learning to say no to attending the next field trip or kindergarten roundup may be the best thing you've ever done. Consider that a healthier you will be a better parent in many ways (mood, sleep, less illness). In the long run, you'll be more present for them when you incorporate exercise into your routine.
Ask for help from a spouse, significant other, and even older children with respect to household chores and grocery shopping. Chances are that you can minimize some of the stress around the home, while you are out releasing feel-good endorphins!
Fit Exercise Into a Busy Schedule
Making Exercise a Routine
When you make exercise a part of your daily routine, it can become second nature. All the rest of the day's demands will eventually fit around your fitness. You'll soon wonder how it was so hard to make time to exercise!
Keep in mind that it generally takes about 30 days to break old habits and establish new ones. Set realistic, attainable goals for 1 month, and you may soon find yourself enjoying the new exercise routine, rather than looking for excuses to avoid it!
4. Set an exercise schedule for the week ahead of time. What works well for me is planning to attend spin class on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 5:30 a.m. Monday and Friday, I attend a core and strength/conditioning class at noon. On Wednesday and the weekends, I have some flexibility to go running, if I wish. Even if you don't have a gym membership or class schedule, it helps to set and stick to a schedule of noontime walks 3 days a week, and bicycle rides in the evenings twice a week.
5. Reward yourself for meeting your daily exercise goals. In the morning, I don't allow myself to turn on the computer until I complete my workout. This has been the most effective strategy since I find email and Facebook to be major time wasters (though so much fun....) If you work best on longer term goals, then consider up-sizing your coffee drink to a large once a week when you get in your workouts. Or, after a month, maybe you can earn that new pair of shoes!
Personally, my favorite reward is one (or several) new mP3 files for my iPod - further motivation to exercise!
Following a Workout Schedule Will Help Make it Routine
Creating Exercise Moments in Daily Life
6. Incorporate more walking into your day. Sure, you've heard this tip many times, but it bears repeating.
Do you have a dog? Take it walking more often. Just 10 minutes in the morning and evening each day is 20 minutes - a third of your daily exercise goal. Stairs at your office? Take them instead of the elevator at least once a day. Why not challenge yourself to park in the first stall in the parking lot that you see, rather than circling around looking for one closer to the entrance.
Looking for an easy way to motivate yourself in this regard? Get a pedometer and set a goal of walking 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day.
7. Make a portion (or all) of your commute your exercise time. A few years ago, I started riding my bicycle to work, which is about 5 miles from my house, each way. I saved a ton on gas and lost so much weight, I dropped a dress size in just one month. If you don't live close enough to ride or walk to work, why not get off the bus or subway a few stops early and walk the remaining blocks? Or, ride your bicycle to/from mass transportation. Here's where you can use that pedometer again!
8. Engage your children, friends or family members. Do you have children? Walk to and from school with them to get them in the early habit of good exercise. Enjoy the additional time together, breathing fresh air. Get outdoors and play tag, go bicycle riding as a family, or create a fun scavenger hunt. You may not even realize you're exercising!
If you regularly meet your friends for coffee or lunch, switch it up and go walking or running together instead. Or, maybe you could even try out a new yoga or spin class over the lunch hour? My sister and I motivated each other in our training for the Portland Marathon several years ago by keeping a virtual training log. It was a lot of fun to see each others progress over the weeks!
Exercising in Your Car? Here's how!
Gym or Home Equipment?
I am a firm believer that you don't need to belong to a gym or even attend workout classes to maintain a level of fitness. The trick is, of course, making time to exercise on a regular basis.
One of the reasons I love running so much is that I can do it just about any time, any place and on my own schedule. I don't have to make it to a class, nor do I have to travel across town to get there. But running isn't for everyone.
Consider your own lifestyle and things you enjoy doing. If you are social, consider a signing up for a fitness class, or maybe encourage your friends to join you hiking for the afternoon (take photographs or go bird watching to pass the time).
Its also a good idea to match your exercise routine to your circadian rhythm to help you find time to exercise. I'm a morning person, so 5:30 a.m. spin classes are perfect for me. On the other hand, my night owl friend heads to yoga after work at 6:30 while her husband picks up the kids and starts dinner.
9. Home equipment may work to help motivate you. If you make an investment in a big item, like a treadmill or stair stepper, you might be less inclined to ignore it. Even small items like exercise balls and jump ropes can get you moving, however. With home equipment, you can multi-task - watch your favorite television show and/or babysit your children.
10. Gym membership can help you change up your exercise routine. Whether you are trying out new classes or simply using different equipment at each visit, this may help keep you motivated to reach your fitness goals.
Remember to give yourself at least 30 days working in exercise into your daily routine. Before long, you won't need to "make time" to exercise... the time will simply present itself!
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© 2010 Stephanie Hicks
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