How to Stay Fit When You Have No Time for Exercise

I don’t have time! This has become our favorite answer to most questions. Are we really so busy that we don’t have time for many important things in life? It is true that work places require more working hours each day, there is less vacation time, college students have to work in addition to their studies to afford college and people are retiring at a much older age than they used to.The number one answer for why people do not exercise is that they don’t have time. Very rarely have I heard my clients say that they don’t exercise because they choose not to; no, they say that they don’t have time. The reality is, however, that everyone has time. In fact, we have 24 hours a day and we have to make choices how we want to spend our time each day. Even though people claim to be busier and busier all the time, statistics show that people couch surf much more and spend significantly more time watching TV, on the computer and playing video and smartphone games. A Nielsen report released in early 2012 states that the average American over age two spends more than 34 hours a week watching live TV.

The truth is that our choices of how we spend our time are killing us. Our “not having time” and “being too busy” to exercise is having severe consequences on our quantity and quality of life. What do you think makes the biggest difference to your health? What do you think has the biggest return on investment? The answer is: exercise! Other health behaviors, such as eating healthfully and sleeping sufficiently, are clearly important, too, but moving your body is the key element. The Aerobic Centre Longitudinal Study conducted by Steven Blair from the University of South Carolina concluded that low fitness is the strongest predictor of death.

The good news is that if you choose to spend only two percent of your 24-hour day on exercise, the benefits are truly lifesaving! This translates into 30 minutes per day. 30 minutes of planned, structured and intentional movement can truly change your life as you know it. The challenge is to figure out ways that we can make time for these 30 minutes to fit into our daily lives in a way that can be enjoyable and manageable (by the way, you can break these up into segments of ten minutes!).

Here are some practical ways to include 30 minutes of exercise into your busy day and make you a mover!

1. Be an active TV watcher. Starting today, when you watch TV, move! If you can, purchase a piece of exercise equipment that you can use while watching (stationary bike, treadmill, etc.). If you want to spend less money, purchase a small BOSU ball that you can utilize as a stepper or simply walk or stretch in your living room.

2. Rise and shine. Plan to get up just 30 minutes earlier, put on your walking shoes and go for a brisk walk or run. Your dog will most certainly appreciate it, too!

3. Cut down on media usage. Time yourself to see how much you utilize media (computer, TV, phone, etc.) and then choose to replace 30 minutes of that time with a physical activity you enjoy.

4. Post dinner activity. Make it a habit to go on a walk after your evening meal with your family or a friend before you clean the kitchen.

5. “Cleanersize”. All of us have to complete household chores and why not turn these must-do activities into physical activity? Turn on some good music and try to exercise your way through the chores, increasing the speed and movement with everything you do.

6. Utilize your lunch break. Most work places allow lunch breaks between 30 – 60 minutes. Pack your running shoes to work and before eating, go for a walk outside. So that you do not feel awkward, start a walking club and get your co-workers involved in this activity.

7. Get a pedometer. It is amazing to be aware of how inactive we really are when measuring our daily activities with steps. Pedometers (or free pedometer apps) can really help in increasing your daily activity simply because you are aware of it! Remember, at minimum, we want to reach 10,000 steps each day. Turn this activity into a competition with yourself and try to beat the previous day’s record.

8. Turn family and friend time into physical activity. For some reason we think that socializing has to be done sitting down around a dinner table, but there are so many other ways that we could learn to be active together. Play an active game together in the park, go for a bike ride together, play tennis, go bowling or simply walk together.

9. Change your priorities. Look at your daily life and reorganize your priorities and see how you can merge the must do’s with physical activity (you will be amazed what can be done with a bit of creativity). Time for exercise should be high on everyone’s priority list as it impacts every other aspect of life, health and wellbeing.

10. Find your passion. Everyone will be able to discover physical activities that they love. It is important to try out many different things and find out what is most enjoyable. Research shows that people who find a passion in a particular physical activity are more likely to stick to it long-term.

Make a choice today to find 30 minutes in your 24-hour day, just a mere two percent, to exercise and be physically active. It will add years to your life and life to your years!

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Dominique Wakefield MA, CPT

is the Director for University Health & Wellness and Adjunct Faculty in the Department for Public Health, Nutrition & Wellness at Andrews University in Michigan. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and a Certified Wellness Practitioner through the National Wellness Institute (NWI). In addition to university teaching, Dominique has worked extensively, as a manager and personal trainer, in the health and wellness sector. Dominique is a PhD candidate in Health and her research centers on physical activity, motivation for exercise, and behavior change strategies. Dominique is a passionate, energetic, and innovative health, wellness, and fitness expert and regularly contributes articles to Life and Health Network and to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). In October 2011, Dominique Wakefield was awarded "Top 11 Personal Trainers to Watch in the U.S." by Life Fitness and the American Council on Exercise.

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