My mother used to say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Nothing could be more accurate than for those trying to exercise regularly. All of us can put exercise on the backburner; I have a fantastic gym in my home, and I have days when I tell myself that I don’t have enough time to spend 45 minutes working out. Seriously.
If someone like me who promotes exercise for a living has problems dragging herself to a workout, what hope is there for those with less experience? The short answer is plenty. Here’s the thing - if I miss a workout, I know that I have a well-established program and an exercise habit that will have me out again tomorrow and the next day. I also usually do something to make up for a missed workout, like an extra walk or taking a few more sets of stairs.
For the women just starting who struggle to find time to exercise, take heart. Lack of time to exercise is the number one reason that most people cite when asked why they are sedentary. Lack of time has also been a consistent theme from folks that I have worked with over the years.
Is it true that we have a lack of time? Most of us are chronically busy. I have two businesses, a part-time teaching position, I volunteer, have two kids, and I just recently left a board role. But I also can be found spending way too much time on social media or carving away parts of my day reading irrelevant articles on the internet. Let’s just say that free time can usually be made available in most schedules.
So how do we start giving healthy living a little more of our attention? Here are nine ways that you can take lack of time out of the equation:
1. Reframe: This is probably the most critical place to start. We need to reframe the idea of exercise. Exercise is not something that we need to make time for; it needs to be an essential part of our day in the same way that we approach showering or brushing our teeth.
2. Make a small change: Making a small change to start doesn’t take very much time. Taking the steps instead of the elevator or parking farther away is a little change that, when done regularly, can yield excellent results.
3. Integrate two things: Maybe I’m lazy, or maybe I’m Type A, who knows. I’ve always liked the efficiency of being able to do two things at once (I don’t like driving because I can only do one thing, whereas, on transit, I can read). I’ve adopted this with my exercise.
I run-commute to my office (or sometimes home from my office), I take transit so I can walk farther, I always take the stairs, I do arm curls with the milk jug on the way home from the grocery store (I know by doing this I look ridiculous, but hey, who cares). Look for places that provide a dual purpose to fit in a bit more activity.
4. Focus on intensity: Don’t have a lot of time? Turn up the heat. I wrote a whole blog post about higher intensity daily activities or “high-intensity incidental physical activity” here.
5. Make it social: Meeting a friend for a coffee? Suggest a walk instead. Better yet, arrange a regular walking date with a friend or spouse. Keep it social.
6. Make it fun: Why can’t I talk myself into going to my home gym? Because I prefer to be outdoors and, let's face it, lifting weights is hard work. Because I know I need to always work on my strength, I try to make it fun with music, podcasts or anything that might draw me in by making the gym more enjoyable. Now if I had a latte machine out there...
7. Concentrate on steps: One of the easiest ways that you can get more physical activity without changing anything in your life is to start tracking your steps. Grab a step counter and prepare to become obsessed with getting to that magical 8000-10,000 steps a day.
8. Put it in your schedule: Scheduling exercise makes the likelihood of you completing the session higher. Pencilling in exercise gives it the same importance as anything else in your calendar.
9. Put a value on your health: In a study of those who maintained regular exercise versus those who didn’t, no big surprise that the folks who were consistent with training tended to place a higher value on the activity. If you add structured exercise sessions into your schedule, track your workouts, and generally treat getting fit in the same way you would approach a career, the likelihood of you having long term adherence to an exercise program is much higher.
Time doesn’t have to be a reason that you limit your exercise. Use the strategies above, and I guarantee you will be able to fit more physical activity into your life.
Look out for my blog posts over the next three weeks, where I address other barriers that come up when people try to get healthier. Let’s make 2020 the healthiest year ever. 💃💃💃
Your sister in health,
 Jung, M. E., & Brawley, L. R. (2010). Concurrent management of exercise with other valued life goals: Comparison of frequent and less frequent exercisers. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11(5), 372–377
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