Who isn't in a time crunch these days? Even with the best intentions, it's easy to let a busy weekly routine crowd out regular physical activity. Yet, the beneficial effects of exercise are undeniable and far outweigh any risk in most adults. Current recommendations suggest that in a week, adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise such as such as brisk walking or cycling, and two to three days of muscle-strengthening activities.
It's best to spread out activity during the week, as well as break it up into smaller chunks of time throughout the day. "Researchers show that small bouts of exercise throughout the day compared to one prolonged bout can be equally beneficial to one's health," says Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In addition, smaller bouts tend to be easier for people to implement and maintain. So, if you can't seem to find 30 consecutive minutes in a day for your workout, you can still fit it in by splitting up the time.
So how do we put those recommendations into practice? "When life gets busy, self-care practices like exercise can be the first to go," says McDaniel. "Schedule exercise into your calendar like any other appointment or task. Scheduling is a straightforward way of converting an intention or activity into a long-lasting habit."
Try taking 10 minutes in the morning, afternoon and evening to do some form of activity. This can include 10 minutes of body weight exercises (push-ups, crunches, lunges, squats, etc.) in the morning, a 10-minute brisk walk during your lunch break at work and 10 minutes of yoga-inspired stretching in the evening.
Involve the Family in Daily Fitness
Thirty minutes will fly by if you get the kids engaged in something that they, too, can enjoy. Grab the family and head out for a walk, game of tag or bike ride.
Clean with Purpose
Don't just sweep the floor, scrub the floor. Don't just unload the dishwasher, dance with the dishes. Minutes add up fast when you move more during your clean-up time.
Look for Opportunities to Walk
Suggest work meetings on the go. "Meetings don't have to happen in an office," McDaniel says. "Moving while meeting can foster more creativity and communication often is improved when conducted side-by-side compared to face-to-face. Outdoor air also improves mood, enhancing collaboration." If your job has you hanging out in airports on a regular basis, make that activity for you, too. "Walking while waiting in the airport can easily add thousands of steps to your day," McDaniel adds.
Thirty minutes of activity accumulates quickly when you seek out opportunities, such as taking the stairs, parking far away and doing yard work.
If you can't seem to find the self-motivation needed to make it happen, consider recruiting a workout partner or hiring a fitness professional. Knowing that someone is expecting you at a certain place or time can help to enhance accountability for being more active.