Five Ways to Squeeze in Exercise When You Really (Really!) Don't Have Time

The recommended physical activity level for adults is 30 minutes of moderate-intesity activity on most days. For a healthy heart and improved health, find an activity that you enjoy, then commit to just 30 minutes a day. You don't need to sign up for an intense, structured exercise program, just move in a way that is enjoyable to you. It may be tennis, chasing your kids around the backyard or jogging with your dog. Some people like lifting weights, some like Karate or Barre. It doesn't matter how you move, just that you move. 

"But Lea," you say "I don't have an extra 30 minutes a day! Don't you know by the time I get the kids up and off to school, work all day, commute back and forth, make dinner, load the dishwasher, drive the family taxi and catch up on emails, my day is over. I simply don't have the time to work out."

Time is a common barrier to exercise so I've come up with a few suggestions for squeezing in exercise, even when you don't have time. This won't be a list that includes doing crunches during commercial breaks, because if you have time to watch TV, you have time to exercise!


Set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier than usual and use the extra time in the morning for your workout. The benefit of early morning exercise is that you almost never have to cancel due to schedule conflicts, you get it done before your to-do list fills up and you start your day feeling like a rock star. Need more tips? Check out this post of 25 tips to wake up early to workout that I wrote over on Running with Ollie blog.


OK, I get it. You're not a morning person. An earlier rise just isn't doable for you. There are no rules about when you workout, an evening workout is just as good as a morning one. The best time to exercise is when you will do it consistently.

One smart way to get in 30 minutes of exercise a day is to break your exercise sessions up into smaller segments. Try a 10 minute full body strength circuit in the morning, take a 10-15 brisk walk break during your lunch break and a 10 minute jog in the evening (or a quick Yoga session to unwind before bed). You don't have to do it all at once, you just have to do it.


Speaking of lunch, a lunch break can be a great time to squeeze in a workout. It doesn't mess with your precious morning sleep and doesn't get in the way of your busy evening. Bring a pair of gym shoes to work and make your lunch hour a power hour! You could join a gym near your work, hire a trainer for a 30 minute lunch session or simply walk/jog. You'll find yourself back at work energized and ready to take on the afternoon. 


Another sneaky way of getting in exercise is to do double duty. Find a way to exercise while you go about your daily obligations. Walk on a treadmill while you study, work on a treadmill desk, stand during conference calls, sit on a stability ball at your desk, have a walking meeting at work, jog around the field while your kid is at soccer practice. If you get a little creative, you'll start to see all kinds of opportunities to do double duty.


If a structured exercise program just doesn't fit in your schedule, work to get more active doing the things you do anyway. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away from the entrance at work and the grocery store. Always return that shopping cart to the cart return. (Wait. You should be a good human and do that anyway.)

How much time do you spend standing in front of the stove waiting for the timer to wind down? How many minutes to you spend looking at your smartphone? Try doing counter pushups while you wait for the stove, microwave or dryer to ding. Try doing a squat before you look at your phone. I read somewhere that people look at their phones up to a 100 times a day (that may be a totally made up internet stat, but sounds legit to me). Just imagine how many squats you would get in if you did one squat before every smartphone peek?

If you get creative and put your mind to it, I bet you can find thirty minutes to get in your daily exercise. What works best for you? Do you follow a structured plan or more of a what you can when you can approach? Which of these ways works best for your schedule? 


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