How To Fit Exercise Into Your Day When You Feel Like You Have No Time

You don't have to go to the gym for an hour every day.

If you're like a third of Canadians, you started the new year resolving to improve your health — likely through better eating and more exercise. But it doesn't take long after Jan. 1 for reality to set in, as we all get back to work and school and discover that despite our best intentions, our schedules are as busy as ever.

But there's one simple trick for re-framing your thinking around fitness that can help you find the time to fit exercise into your schedule: think small. Smaller amounts of time, smaller workouts, smaller goals.

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"Find pockets of time in your day," Stephanie George, a yoga instructor and personal trainer, told HuffPost Canada by email. It might seem impossible to find three three-hour chunks of time for exercise in your week, but finding 15 minutes a couple of times a day, on most days, is likely much more manageable.

George advises clients to fit exercise in where they're able, keeping in mind that even short workouts can add up.

"Keep your workouts short," George says. "You don't need to spend an hour in the gym. Thirty or even 15 minutes is enough." Exercises like planks, squats, and tricep dips work several muscle groups and give you lots of bang for your buck, she says, and yoga can be both cardiovascular (if you work in more active moments like sun salutations) and great for balance and flexibility.

The research supports this. One study published in PLOS ONE in 2016 found that short bursts of exercise had a lot of fitness value. Another from the American Heart Association found that short bursts of high-intensity exercise were associated with improved blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight in people with Type 2 diabetes.

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Think about where in your day you can fit in even ten minutes of movement. Here are a few ideas from George for finding these pockets of time:

  1. Walk or cycle to work, or park a bit further away than usual and spend the last ten minutes getting there on foot instead of by car or transit.
  2. Spend your lunch break out for a walk or getting in a quick workout at a nearby gym. Bring a coworker and catch up at the same time!
  3. Waiting for your kids to get off school, or to finish an extracurricular? Get out of the car and go for a short walk, even around the building.
  4. When you're watching TV in the evening, get in a bit of yoga, some stretches, or some exercises with light weights. Try running in place during commercials to get your heart rate up.

It's recommended that Canadian adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise, in bouts of 10 minutes or more, every week. That's 10 brisk 15-minute walks, for example, or five half-hour ones — something you can do on a lunch break, or on the way to and from work.

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology also recommends using major muscle groups to get in bone- and muscle-strengthening exercise twice a week. This can be as simple as working out at home with free weights or your own body weight during two television shows a week.

However you get those minutes in, make it consistent, George says. "To help deal with scheduling issues, set an alarm on your phone or write it in your planner," she says. And try to get in workouts — whether they're broken into smaller chunks or done all at once — at least three times a week.

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