Fitness Hacks on Tight Schedules

Sheryl Kraft
Sheryl Kraft
Fitness Hacks on Tight Schedules

Busy-ness is a buzzword that takes on so many iterations.

“I’m too busy,” you say, when asked to volunteer in your daughter’s classroom.

“I’m crazy busy,” you squeal to your BFF when she asks why you haven’t returned her calls.

I’m so #$@&%*! busy! you screech when you realize you need to cancel that dentist appointment…again.

But are we as busy as we claim to be? CBS Money Watch reports that we’re not. They write that we’ve got plenty of discretionary time, and spend a quarter to a third of our waking hours on activities that are non-work related (not including the time we spend on personal things during our work day).

And what of exercise? 

That’s often an all-too-easy one with which to pull the busy card. Sure, it can be tough to fit in exercise when your schedule is so tight you can’t squeeze one more hour into your overflowing plate. But it is possible, and I’ll tell you how.

1. Ditch the All-or-Nothing Mentality. You may think that unless you can put in an hour at the gym, it’s worthless to go at all. But with exercise, remember this: Some is definitely better than none. Research shows that even small sessions of cardio and strength training are beneficial.

2. Break It Up. Small bits of exercise throughout the day do add up – and can be valuable. In fact, various studies have demonstrated that multiple short sessions not only provide the same benefits as one longer session, but sometimes the shorter sessions can be more advantageous to your health and fitness.

3. Work It Into Your Day. There are likely numerous opportunities for you to work in some exercise, without even hitting the gym. Opt for the stairs instead of the elevator; choose the furthest parking spot; exit the bus or subway a stop or two before your final destination. All those extra steps do add up. Research proves that working in light activity during the day can decrease damage to our arteries. A report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) reported that even small amounts of physical activity – even standing - could lead to a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. “The greater benefit is to simply exercise,” JACC Editor –in-Chief Dr. Valentin Fuster, is quoted as saying in a press release. Just do it – regardless of intensity – and you’ll benefit.

4. Choose Something Fun. Okay, we know that if you detest cycling, you’re still not going to that spin class you signed up for, even though it seemed like a good idea at the time. This is the time to think about enjoyment – because, in order to keep up with exercise, we have to like it. Besides, it’s easier to make room for fun, isn’t it? If you love music, try a Zumba class; or make a playlist of your favorite tunes and let it pump you up for a walk or run. Playing music during exercise, research shows, increases both motivation and effort.

5. Keep Your Exercise Clothing Handy. This is a trick I’ve used for years – and it always works. I lay out my exercise clothing the night before. (When my children were babies, and time was really limited, I sometimes even slept in my exercise clothes!) Being dressed to work out puts you in that mindset, and acts as a reminder to get moving. Why waste a perfectly good workout outfit – get moving!

6. Be a Weekend Warrior. Saving your workout time for the weekends used to be frowned upon, mainly due to fears of increased risk of injury. But now, a brand new JAMA study – though it doesn’t dispute that contention – does give the weekend-only exercise concept some respect in the health department: Scientists say that 150 minutes of moderate- or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise sessions, done once or twice per week, may help reduce the risk of mortality from all causes, compared with no exercise. To help reduce injury risk, always begin gently with a good warm-up, which can increase both blood flow to your muscles and flexibility.

7. Schedule It In. Just as you’d do with any other appointment, schedule your physical activity by writing it down on your calendar. It will make you more committed and accountable and less likely to play the “I’m too busy” card. Plus, looking back on how many exercise “appointments” you’ve actually kept will give you a huge sense of satisfaction and impetus to keep it up.