If it were possible to get “exercise credits” every time I thought about going for a run or hitting the gym, I’d be ready for the Olympics. Same for you?
With most people, the intention is there, but the motivation is missing. We know the health benefits of regular exercise, but it’s hard to get going.
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association suggest at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. That works out to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. The good news: It’s OK to divide the time into two or three sessions of 10 to 15 minutes each day.
For years, I preferred longer workouts. Running was my mainstay; walking was for old folks. I’d run three or four miles a few times a week, especially on mornings when the scale reported a couple extra pounds. For extra motivation, I’d occasionally enter races to put me in training mode.
There’s a lot you can do to fit in exercise. Think you’re too busy? Here are 10 simple ways to make time to move. If you have questions about how much or what type of activity is right for you, be sure to ask your doctor—and together come up with a plan.
- Start your day sooner. Set your alarm 20 minutes earlier to get a quick workout in before breakfast. Walk the dog, or do some gentle yoga. It takes commitment, but you’ll feel great when you’re done—with the whole day still ahead. Of course, don’t let this cut into your sleep. If you wake up 20 minutes earlier, go to bed 20 minutes earlier.
- Mix up your commute. Ride your bike if you work nearby, get off the bus or subway a stop or two early, or park your car a few blocks away. See how creative you can be in adding movement to your morning and evening commutes.
- Make exercise part of work. Skip the conference room and schedule a walking meeting instead. Stand up during phone calls and work on your balance: Lift one foot an inch off the ground, hold for a few seconds, and switch. At lunchtime, ask a friend to walk a few blocks. And choose the stairs every chance you get.
- Stretch at your desk. It’s easy to get involved in a project and find yourself sitting for hours at a time. Set a reminder on your phone or computer to pause for a few minutes every hour to stand up and move around. Stretch your legs, do a few squats or lunges, reach for the sky, or take a quick walk.
- Find a buddy. Pair up with a friend for exercise. Pledge to get together for workout dates, and hold each other to it. Studies show exercising with a buddy can help keep you inspired and accountable. Mutual motivation can help reduce excuses.
- Join a team. If you like team sports like volleyball, softball, or tennis, find a local group and sign up. Belonging to a team creates a deeper level of commitment—it’s harder to skip practice when you know others are counting on you.
- Take a class. Most fitness centers and YMCAs offer a variety of spin, yoga, cardio, Pilates, and other types of classes. Many will offer a complimentary class for first-timers. Try one out and see if you get hooked.
- Enter a race. For non-runners or casual runners, an organized race can be intimidating, and many host fun runs and walks along with more serious events. Regardless of whether you are competing for a personal best time or just participating for fun, races can be great events. Sign up for one that’s appropriate for your fitness level, and work with a trainer to prepare.
- Take a 30-day challenge. There are lots of different types of online challenges these days. Planks and pushups are popular ones, and each are intended to encourage a daily activity that gets a little tougher each week. Look for a challenge you like—and see how well you do.
- Write down specific goals. Know exactly what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. Think about obstacles and make a plan to overcome them. Saying you’ll “exercise more next week” isn’t enough. Instead, write something like “next Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, I’ll wake up at 5:45 a.m. and go to the 6:15 a.m. spinning class. I’ll be home in time to shower and leave for work.” The more specific your plan is, the better you’ll be able to reach your goals – and stick with them.