We’re all so busy. We try to cram as much as we can into every day. Our to-do lists are never ending. Work, family, life. It’s no wonder that one of the biggest reported barriers to exercise is simply, time. There’s a risk that we feel guilt. Guilt that we aren’t looking after ourselves. Guilt that we don’t seem to manage our time as well as our fitness-mad friends. If only we could add an extra hour to every day, then we’d be fine. Well, good news! It IS possible to exercise when you never have time. Here are some simple ways to fit exercise into a busy life:
1. Stop thinking that exercise takes a long time. Yes, I know the recommended guidelines are 150 minutes a week but you can think in 10 minute blocks instead. The health benefits of exercise come from as little as 10 minute bursts. It’s much easier to find 10 minutes than a half an hour slot. When you dissect your day you’ll be surprised at how often you could manage 10 minutes while you’re waiting for something – nearly time for a Zoom call to start or a friend to pick you up to go out. When you start looking for these windows of time, then you WILL find them. If you can squeeze in two of these 10 minute blocks every day and three on a Sunday you’ve made it! Just make sure that the exercise you do makes you feel a little out of breath; you should be able to talk but not sing. Active 10 is a handy app to help. Suddenly 150 minutes over the week is much more achievable.
2. Use your day. You can get all your exercise minutes during your normal day if you think a bit creatively. Why not get one of your ten minutes in the morning by getting off the bus early or parking a ten minute walk away from your destination? If you do that on the way home too, then that’s 20 minutes. Add in a 10 minute walk at lunchtime or a walking meeting with a friend or work colleague and you’ll be racking up the minutes. Look for these opportunities, there are more than you think.
3. Make it convenient. If you struggle for time, then planning an activity which involves driving to a class or gym and getting changed, just doesn’t make sense. By the time you’re ready to start, you could have done 30 minutes exercise. Make it easy for yourself. Stop off on the way to or from work or the school run, so you aren’t making a separate journey. Choose exercise that you can do at home. Buy a cheap exercise bike and set it up in the corner of the lounge. I know it’s not stylish but you can just hop on when you have a minute – and catch up on a podcast or phone calls while you do it too. Don’t forget good old workout DVDs, YouTube classes, kitchen discos; there’s so much choice. Running is handy because you can go from your front door and get a really full on workout in just 20 minutes. Have your kit ready so you aren’t delving in drawers looking for matching socks, or even better, have it on so you can save precious minutes.
4. Don’t forget the little things. As well as our 150 minutes a week of exercise we should be looking for ways to reduce our sedentary behaviour. It’s no good hitting that target and then sitting for the rest of the day. It’s easy to reduce your sitting time and generally look for ways to move more in the day. Always take the stairs instead of the lift. Drink lots of water so you need to use the toilet; use the toilet on the floor above. Get up and go and see a colleague instead of sending an email. Use a standing desk. Whizz the hoover round. Squat while the kettle boils. Bend down and pull up a few weeds as you walk up the garden path. Park on the far side of the supermarket car park (there’s always more spaces there). Think small. Lots of small things add up.
5. Make it a priority. As the saying goes, ‘If you don’t make time for exercise then you’ll have to make time to be ill’. It’s an investment that makes perfect sense. If you’re too busy to fit it in now then your risk of many major diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer will increase; believe me, having those will use up lots of your precious time. In your day to day life, exercise will boost your immune system and you’ll find you’re ill less often than your more inactive friends. Put your exercise at the top of your to-do list. Once you start fitting it in, you’ll find you are more efficient and you get through all the other things in the day anyway. Find something you enjoy and make exercise fun, it’s far easier to make the time for something you love.
There’s more tips on finding the time, motivation and breaking down barriers to exercise in my book Sorted: The Active Woman’s Guide to Health published by Bloomsbury.
Featured image: Gratisography. Stairs: drjulietmcgrattan.com, Others: Pexels