“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” ~ Jim Rohn
You and I have all heard how great regular exercise is for you–how it can help you lose weight and feel happier. But if you are like many Americans, life is busy, you have a sedentary job, and it is tricky to figure out how to fit exercise into your routine. The good news is that it is never too late to start! Not only that, but I want to give you some ideas for how you can get creative and fit exercise into your already busy schedule.
First, let’s talk about why you need to go to the hassle of exercising more. As I have written before, the benefits of exercise are abundant! They range from enhancing your mood, reducing your risk of disease, increasing your energy, boosting productivity and creativity to improving your mental health, sex life, mood, body image, and even sleep quality. I am sure that you, like me, feel so energized and motivated after you exercise. This is because when you exercise, your body releases chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine that boost your sense of well-being and suppress hormones that cause stress and anxiety. This is what gives you and me that happy post-exercise feeling!
Yes, exercising is great, but you don’t have to do it solely in the gym. How can you incorporate more exercise into your regular [busy] routine?
- Make everyday activities more active. Even small changes can help! You can take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk down the hall to a coworker’s office instead of sending an email. Wash the car yourself. Park further away from your destination or ride a bike to visit your friend. Small, simple changes that will help get your body moving.
- Be active with friends and family. Having a workout partner may make you more likely to enjoy exercise; plus then you are accountable to your partner. You might consider joining an exercise group or class, such as a dance class, hiking club, or volleyball team to give you that sense of community, which fosters relationships that are great for your mental health. You can also plan social activities, like a walk, hike or bike ride with your friends. Social exercise!
- Keep track of your progress. Keeping a log of your activity or using a fitness tracker may help you set goals and stay motivated. If you have an Apple Watch, you know the addiction is real to close all those rings. It truly is a great motivator to have a streak where you consistently reach your goals! It will inspire you to be creative and fit exercise in.
- Exercise…but make it fun! Try listening to music or watching TV while you exercise. (I recently discovered the cycling cinema–a movie while cycling is so fun!) Figure out what gets you hyped and do that. Also, mix things up! if you stick with just one type of exercise, you may get bored and lose motivation. Try doing a combination of activities–this is great for your muscle groups and overall physical health!
- Find activities that you can do even when the weather is bad. Weather can be such a wild card that gets in the way of everything. If you are planning to get out on a run but then it starts raining or snowing, get creative to still fit exercise in. Maybe you can walk in a mall, climb stairs in your apartment building, work out in a gym, try your friend’s peloton, find a HIIT workout on YouTube (I have exercised in my kitchen in dire circumstances), or do a stretchy yoga class if you have minimal space. This way, you always have a backup plan, and you will never have an excuse to not exercise–even when the weather stops you from doing so outside!
If you can spend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity–or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity–you will be better off for it. Even if you can do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity, you will reap the benefits. Your body will thank you! The guidelines suggest that you spread this exercise throughout the week, doing a little bit daily is the best way. Even small amounts of physical activity are helpful, and accumulated activity throughout the day adds up to provide major health benefits.
Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any concerns about your fitness, have not exercised for a long time, or have chronic health problems (such as heart disease, diabetes or arthritis). Get creative, but stay safe.
What else do you do to be sure to fit exercise in? I would love to hear your suggestions and ideas in the comments section below. Remember, it does not have to be extreme exercise for hours upon hours at a time for you to see and feel the benefits of exercising regularly. Just try to fit bits of exercise here and there within all your current responsibilities. Get creative, make everyday activities more active, involve friends/family, track your progress, make it FUN, and eliminate excuses by having a plan B. You got this!
Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.
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