What to Do If You Don’t Have Time to Exercise


Every year, countless Americans vow to make exercise a regular part of their routine. However, many people cite lack of time as a major barrier to making a fit lifestyle stick over the long-term.

If this is you, don’t despair. There are many ways to fit exercise into your day-to-day life — no matter how busy you are. Here are a handful of strategies to try:



First, consider whether you’re really too busy to exercise, or if there are places where you’re spending your time that could be put to better use. “I would encourage people who are looking to add exercise into their lifestyle to take an honest look at where they are spending their time, and how much value or benefit what they are doing is adding to their lives at the moment,” says Eliza Nelson, ACE-certified personal trainer and orthopedic exercise specialist.

Start paying attention to how you live your day and you might notice you spend a lot of time scrolling Instagram, or that the time you thought you were spending on work is mostly eaten up by distractions. Once you identify exactly where your time is going, you can probably find spots to free up for exercise.



“Committing to a workout doesn’t mean you need to take hours out of your day,” says Holly Janiszewski, a Minneapolis-based personal trainer. In fact, you can get an efficient workout in 30 minutes, she adds. You can even break your workout into smaller chunks to be done throughout the day if you can’t manage it all at once; don’t discount the effectiveness of exercising 10 minutes here and there. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends all adults aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (i.e., walking), as well as two days of muscle-strengthening activity per week, but encourages you to do what you can, stating that even five minutes of physical activity offers real health benefits. “These little things add up, and as you realize that they are doable and that they have an effect on how you feel, you will feel motivated to continue them or even add other habits into your routine,” Nelson says.



Maximize your time in the gym (or at home) by planning your workout in advance — even if your plan is as simple as walking on the treadmill for 10 minutes and working through a few sets of dumbbell squats and chest presses. If you don’t know where to start or how to use the equipment, find out if your gym offers a complimentary assessment or personal training session. “This can, at the very least, familiarize you with the equipment, and you can get a few pointers on different movements you can try,” Nelson says.

You can also register for a group fitness class, find workouts online or try a routine from a trainer you follow on Instagram. However, if you can afford to hire an online or in-person coach to design a program for you, this personalized attention can take a lot of the guesswork out of your exercise routine and ensure you’re doing the activities that lead you toward your goals.



Admittedly, waking up early to sweat it out may be a tough sell for many people, but if you’re a morning person, getting up earlier than usual could be a great way to fit in a workout, while starting your day off on a healthy note. If you’re having a tough time coaxing yourself out of bed, try waking up just 15 minutes earlier and doing a quick yoga or strength routine. Make it work for you and your lifestyle.



“Accountability is a great way to move forward in a fitter lifestyle,” Nelson says. Personal trainers, friends and family members can all provide support and help you stay accountable to your exercise routine — even on the craziest days. They may even be able to help you brainstorm ways to fit exercise into your busy schedule, and/or work out alongside you.

But keep in mind: Not every friend and family member will necessarily be in your corner. In fact, some people may push back when you try to make time for exercise. “Most people are uncomfortable with change,” Nelson says. So, you may need to look outside your usual social circles for support and accountability. Consider signing up for an online fitness challenge, hiring a personal trainer or joining a running group.



Sometimes, life gets in the way of even the best-laid plans. But even if you have to bail on the group exercise class you signed up for, or that routine you got from your personal trainer is simply too long and involved to manage, you can still find ways to fit exercise into your day; something is better than nothing. So, take your dog for a walk, find a yoga routine or jump rope workout on YouTube, knock out bodyweight exercises like pushups and squats while you watch TV with your family, and/or do an abbreviated version of your planned workout. You may also be able to incorporate exercise into your routine by biking or walking instead of driving and taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, Janiszewski says.

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