Fitting in Exercise When You’re Pressed for Time

“I don’t have enough time to exercise.”  I’ve heard employees offer this as an excuse for not exercising more times than I can count.  I may have even muttered this line myself once or twice over the years, but that doesn’t mean that not having enough time is a good reason not to be physically active.   I don’t need to list all of the benefits of exercising, but I will remind you that regular exercise does help increase your vitality and lifespan and decrease your risk of conditions like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.  For those of us who work full-time and have numerous obligations outside of the workplace, finding time to work out may seem like an insurmountable challenge.  But in reality, it’s not, and I’m here to tell you that finding the time to exercise, even with a busy schedule, is much easier than you think.

The government’s 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults perform 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (such as brisk walking) a week (the equivalent of 30 minutes a day, five days out of the week) for optimal health.  This may seem like a daunting number to achieve, but there’s a lot of good news about this recommendation:

  • Activity can be spread out throughout the week, and even throughout the day. As long as you’re getting at least 10 minutes of activity at a time, you can count that activity toward your 150 minutes.
  • Everyday activities like cleaning your car count, as long as they’re performed for at least 10 minutes at a time and result in a moderate elevation of your heart rate (e.g., you’re able to talk, but not sing, while performing your activity).
  • You can get away with doing fewer minutes of activity if you increase your intensity. If you choose to perform vigorous-intensity activity (like jumping rope, or any other activity during which you find it difficult to talk because you’re working so hard), you only need to get in 75 minutes a week.

Although cardiovascular exercise is often a main focus of physical activity recommendations, strength training is also important, as strength training helps build muscle, which helps increase metabolism.  Try to perform strength training exercises at least twice a week, on non-consecutive days.  Choose 8-10 different exercises that work all the major muscle groups, and perform 8-12 repetitions of each.

It’s up to you to choose the intensity and duration of your activities – find ones that fit into your schedule and that you’re comfortable performing.  If you’re stumped as to how you can possibly fit activity into your busy schedule, start here:

  • Take two, 15-minute walks during your daily breaks.
  • Jump rope for 15 minutes (you’ll burn almost 200 calories!)
  • Walk around the room when you’re talking on the phone.
  • Do push-ups, crunches, and jumping jacks during tv commercials.
  • Lift light weights while you’re watching tv.
  • Climb the stairs in your office building for 10 minutes once or twice a day.
  • Clean the house – increase your pace by challenging yourself to finish cleaning in a certain amount of time.
  • Try high-intensity interval training. Alternate back and forth between low-intensity activity, like walking, and high-intensity activity, like running, for 30 minutes.

Exercising doesn’t have to seem like a chore if you’re creative about fitting activity in whenever you can.  The next time you catch yourself saying that you don’t have time to exercise, imagine me telling you to go take a hike – or at least a quick walk around the block.

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