Too often as fitness trainers we hear the excuse, “I just don’t have enough time” in relation to physical activity and/or starting an exercise program. Yes if you are someone who is working fulltime in a stressful job, have kids and a family to care for, and are subject to all the other stresses of life that take up majority of your time, rest assured there is still a way to incorporate exercise into your weekly routine.
Sure, guidelines suggests 30 minutes of exercise a day at least five times a week, which can sound quite overwhelming, especially to someone who claims they struggle to find five minutes of spare time in a day. Fact is something is better than nothing. One minute is better than one second, and if we take this approach then all of a sudden exercise doesn’t sound all that scary. People tend to think they have to do their 30 minutes of exercise all in one bout or else there is no point. This is a common misconception that is seen and in actual fact exercise can be broken up into smaller bouts across the duration of the day, such as three 10-minute blocks.
The following tips and tricks can be incorporated into most busy schedules to not only fit in some extra physical activity, but also to increase motivation and facilitate continuation of a fitness program.
- Use your commute
If you only live a few kilometres away from work have you ever considered running or cycling in a few times a week? Health benefits aside this could lead to multiple other pluses including saving the cost of fuel and parking, and not wasting valuable time sitting in peak hour traffic. Many studies have actually shown commuting to work to be significantly quicker than driving. Not only can you burn more calories, keep fighting fit, and stimulate the brain which will help you focus better at work, you may even open up more time in your day.
If you live too far away to commute the whole way, you could consider parking a little further away than usual or getting off a couple of bus stops early, and then walking or running the rest. Just remember to have clean clothes and a towel in your backpack so you don’t carry a sweaty odour into the office.
- Incorporate exercise breaks into your work day
There are numerous ways to incorporate exercise into your workday. It can be as simple as taking a five-minute break every hour to have a stretch at the desk, or placing some dumbbells on your desk and doing a couple of sets of bicep curls every hour. By doing this you will find you are more productive, as the quick bout of exercise will keep your brain more alert meaning you are more productive throughout the day. Another tip could be to break up sitting on a chair by sitting on a stability ball to promote better posture and engage muscles while you are typing away.
Additionally you could involve your coworkers by organising lunchtime sports games such as indoor soccer or touch football once a week to get everyone involved. This will lead to better relationships with your colleagues too.
- Make an exercise appointment with a fitness professional
Sometimes being able to fit exercise into your schedule is about making a commitment and sticking to it. Think of it like a dental check-up, doctors appointment, or parent teacher interview. You can always find the time to arrange these meetings when required. So why not book in to see a personal trainer or fitness instructor and have them write you a program or help point you in the right direction. If you think of it as an appointment you’ll find it easier to fit into your busy schedule.
- Invite a friend
Haven’t seen one of your close friends in a while because you’ve been too busy? Why not invite them for a social catch up and make a workout out of it. It doesn’t have to be boring or hard, you could go for a hike, a round of golf, or sign up for a dance class together. Friends are less likely to bail on each other, which is why it’s also a good idea to invite them along, as you will hold yourself accountable.
Furthermore, if you are out of ideas for your next date this could also be a great idea for a fun filled day instead of trying to make small talk over coffee.
- Learn to be more efficient
This blanket statement encompasses tricks you can employ which will allow you to exercise for a shorter duration while still producing the same benefits. The most important thing for someone who is time poor is to the ditch the all or nothing attitude, not every session has to be an hour long. The most effective and bang for your buck exercise one can do is high intensity interval training (HIIT). Even just 5-10 minutes of HIIT is enough to elicit a positive response in the body.
You can also save time and get a full body workout on the treadmill by holding dumbbells and doing arm exercises such as bicep curls while walking, in order to exercise the legs, arms, and cardiovascular system all in one. It’s also important to remember exercise can be done anywhere, anytime, and doesn’t have to be in the gym.
- Use your down time
Yes most of us love spending time in front of the TV with a packet of chips or a tub of ice-cream. Why not change this up every now and then by sneaking in a few sets of crunches, jumping jacks, or squats during the add breaks. You can workout in the luxury of your own home without missing a second of your favourite show. Another option is to listen to that podcast or new music album you’ve been waiting for, while you are on the treadmill or exercise bike in the gym.
- Find a race to start training for
Having a goal will motivate you more to find time to fit exercise and training into your weekly schedule. Any competition that has a deadline will do. Grab a friend and sign up for a fun run, walk, ride, or adventure event.
- Always use the stairs
This is about making small choices that seem insignificant, but then can make a huge difference to your overall health and wellbeing. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away from the office, take a walk while you’re on the phone, or take the dog for a walk in the park. The list is endless.
- Make it fun
Find types of physical activity that you enjoy. If workouts don’t feel like a chore they will soon become a hobby, and naturally will just find their way into the usual weekly routine. Some ideas could be organising a weekly football game with some mates and having a barbecue at the park, signing up for a martial arts class, or going rock climbing, kayaking, or surfing. If you want to stay at home you could invest in WII Fit, as it still gets the body moving, and elevates the heart rate, which essentially is the overarching goal of exercise.
10. Incorporate it into chores
Vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, mopping, mowing, and weeding all require a form of movement, which burns calories. Housework can actually be quite taxing on the body and it has the added benefit of producing a sparkling clean house. Even when cooking you could put some of your favourite tunes on and dance around the kitchen to burn a few extra cookies.
11. Take the kids with you
A great idea used by many running enthusiasts with young kids is to invest in a jogging stroller and spend some quality time with them by taking them to a parkrun on a Saturday morning. It’s a great way to get the whole family outdoors and active with the added motivation of hundreds of other people all running the same route. Even better, it’s free.
12. Download a fitness tracking app
Perfect for motivation as you can monitor your activity levels, connect with and challenge friends, and see how you’re progressing. Strava is a free app used by people all over the world which is like a facebook for exercise and is very motivating as you can not only see your own activities, but those of all your friends. It’s the perfect way to motivate each other and fuels the desire to do more.
As can be seen once you think about it there are plenty of ways that you can incorporate some sort of exercise or physical activity into your daily or weekly schedule, it just takes a little bit of motivation and organisation. Once you do something you will have so much more energy and feel so much better within yourself.
Ways to set yourself up for exercise success include scheduling it in, and making it easy on yourself by choosing things you enjoy at times of the day when you are most energetic. Remove obstacles by preparing all your workout clothes the night before and hold yourself accountable. It helps if you commit to another person or class so you don’t get the urge to bail on them.