How can I keep myself physically active despite a busy schedule?

How to make time to exercise. If your life is busy then walking is a great exercise solution.

Managing time starts with an awareness of how you are spending your time. People who have busy schedules find it extremely helpful to keep a time diary. For three days write down everything you do during the time with the corresponding time and length of time. For example, 8-8:30 eat breakfast, 8:30-9:30 work, 9:30-10:30 walk, Noon-1 lunch, 2:30-3:30 meeting, 4:00-5:00 work on project. If you look at this you'll notice that there are several blocks of unutilized time between 10:30-Noon, 1-2:30 and 3:30-4. You shouldn't have to utilize every second of everyday but this does show that there is time available during this day. People think they don't have time but realize they either do, aren't managing their time efficiently or are so busy that it feels like there isn't any underutilized time available. Once you become aware of how you are using your time then you can better manage it.

Most people have a very busy schedule.  What you need to ask yourself is 'What do I do with my down time?'  I truly believe that everyone can find at least 30 minutes a day for physical activity, if they try.  The good news is that many things people do with their down time such as--reading, planning, or even watching TV can all be done while exercising.  If you can't find 30 minutes to focus solely on exercise, then find exercises you can perform while taking care of other business.

As a business owner and parent, I face the same schedule challenges as my clients in getting my workouts in. I quickly realized that since I couldn't create any more time in a day, I needed to manage my time more efficiently. Need some help finding time to work out? Here are some steps to get you started:
  • Investigate: Write down everything that you do in a day for an entire week and how long it takes you to do it. What activities do you get the most value from? Where do you waste time? What responsibilities can you consolidate or delegate?
  • Eliminate: Examine your schedule and eliminate activities that do not bring you enjoyment or add to your life in a positive way.  This may mean disappointing others by saying no to their requests so that you are not overextending yourself.
  • Moderate:  For activities that you enjoy that can be huge time wasters (eg. surfing the web, television, Facebook, computer games, etc.), set time limits on how much you will engage in these activities each day.  This may mean not checking your computer too often to avoid the temptation. These activities can be used as rewards for after you complete your workout.
  • Cooperate: Trade off with your spouse, family members or friends with your chore and childrearing responsibilities to free up time in your schedule for exercise. Better yet, find workouts that you can incorporate your children into. There are some great jog strollers, hiking carriers and bike seats which make it easy to bring them along. Enlist workout buddies whether it be your spouse, friends or a trainer to keep you motivated.
  • Activate: After you have freed up holes in your schedule, find the time that will work best for you to complete a workout. For the extremely busy, this may mean times of day that you may not have considered before or mini workout sessions. Studies have shown that three 10 minute exercise sessions can be the equivalent of a 30 minute workout.  When designating time for your workouts, try to schedule them when you will be least likely to be interrupted so that you can create a healthy habit.

After working on your time management skills, you should find that you do have the time for exercise and discover how much it improves the quality of your life.

Even with a busy schedule you can still keep physically active by finding ways to add physical activity into your daily routine. When you go to work, park as far away from the office as you can to force yourself to walk for several minutes to get to the office and several minutes on the way home or walk to lunch if you can. Try and take a walk at home with your family, friends, or a pet. When you run errands park further away to force you to walk more. Take stairs instead of elevators and escalators, while at work walk to go see colleagues instead of emailing or calling them.  Do chores around your house; wash your car yourself instead of taking it to the car wash. If you put enough of these small activities together over the course of a week it will add up to enough activity to keep you healthy until your schedule can change. 
Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine

Here are few tips for keeping physical activity in your routine despite your busy, hectic schedule.

  • Choose activities you like. Have fun when you exercise. Don't create a workout that is so onerous that you dread doing it.
  • Vary your activities over the years so you don't get bored. Don't feel that you have to stick to one and only one routine.
  • Exercise with a buddy so you have someone who depends on you to show up, someone who will keep you accountable and can add some social pleasure while you work out.
  • Join an exercise class. This provides some structure as well as expertise. You'll also benefit from the energy of those working out around you.
  • If you like to exercise alone, keep it fun by listening to music or books on tape, or simply use it as downtime to reflect and think without interruptions.
  • Incorporate exercises into your social routine. Meet a friend for a walk instead of for lunch.
  • If you find it hard to carve out time for exercise because of a busy work schedule, do walk-and-talk meetings. You can start a new trend in your corporate culture. Have coworkers keep a pair of walking shoes at the office, and take a walk when you need to meet. This way, you can take care of work issues, get a breath of fresh air, and get your exercise in at the same time.
  • Is there a time of day you need to check in with a loved one or catch up on some phone calls that don't require you to be sitting at your desk? Take your cell phone for a walk-get a headset and catch up on calls while you exercise.
  • Set a future goal by enrolling in a 10k race or a similar event. Planned, future events like this can be good motivators to keep you on track.
  • Have a friendly competition with your spouse, friends, or work colleagues. Challenge one another to exercise at least five days a week for half an hour. Mark it on a central calendar and have a reward at the end for all who are able to accomplish this goal.

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    Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.