Almost everyone I know is pressed for time, at least a few days a week. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t recognize our busy days as anything more than a lot of work, and will happily lose strength, cardio fitness, and flexibility while we collapse on the couch at the end of the day. While it’s important to note that 1) a long day on your feet can be enough exercise in itself, and 2) that there needs to be a balance between physical work and rest and recovery, most of us still need a little exercise boost on a daily basis.
Sadly, I don’t have the magic secret to extra hours in the day. Maybe I can console you with some tips for squeezing a little exercise into the (jam-packed) time we do have:
1. Find (or make) your opportunities for incidental exercise. Park at the far edge of the parking lot, get off public transportation a stop early and walk the extra few blocks, take the stairs instead of the escalator – the opportunities are endless.
2. Make it social. Exercise with friends is better than exercise alone. Meeting for a walk or a trip to the gym certainly beats meeting at Starbucks, where sitting and calorie consumption are king.
3. Break it up. There is a significant amount of research to support the idea that several shorter exercise efforts are just as good as one long one. If you can find a few five to ten minute (or even 30 second) breaks in your day where you can sneak in some body weight squats or a walk around the block, you’ll hit your exercise target in no time.
4. Schedule it in. I know people who live and die by their day planners (possibly the busiest people I know). If your workout time gets put on the books, you are much more likely to follow through with it. Plus, scheduling it in can help relieve the guilt of “should be doing something else”.
5. Take a break. I recently saw someone suggest following the “20/20” rule: for every 20 minutes of work/running around/life being crazy, stop for 20 seconds to stretch. I love this idea and you can certainly be flexible with it (no pun intended) by holding the stretch a little longer, or changing the stretching for different exercises for some variety throughout the day.
6. Multi-task. Many exercises can be done in front of the TV, so you can catch up on the news or your favorite shows and get your sweat on at the same time. BUT – make sure that you’re still putting a good effort in. I’ve seen more treadmill zombies who are walking a half mile and hour while watching TV than I care to count.
7. Find something you enjoy. This will not exactly help you fit exercise into an already busy day, but when you look forward and enjoy your workout, you are much more likely to make the time for it. Making the time and actually completing your workout is key to actually getting results.
8. Worst case scenario: do the chores. Vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, washing windows, and lugging laundry around – all of these things get you moving and probably tick some of your “to-do’s” off your list (I know it would for me). While I would probably rather lift weights than any of these things, they are certainly better than nothing!