Two women walk with weights.

Making time: tips to help you work in your workout

MAY 08, 2018
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You’ve probably heard it many times: fitness should be an essential part of your day, just like eating and sleeping. But when life gets busy, it can be hard to find the time for exercise. Here are some simple ways you can work more movement into your daily routine, along with scheduling tips and ideas for making the most of a mini-workout.


Small choices make a big difference


Do you walk from the car to your office? Take the stairs instead of the elevator? What about gardening and mowing? Playing with your kids?


Good news — you’re already working out. Everyday activities and chores can go a long way toward improving your health without a trip to the gym. Other ways you can work some extra movement into your daily tasks include:


  • Doing simple stretches while on the phone
  • Rolling out your neck and shoulders when sitting at your desk or watching TV
  • Gripping a “squeeze ball” when your hands are free to tone your arms and relieve stress
  • Going old school with yard work by using a rake instead of a leaf blower, a hand saw instead of a chain saw, or a push mower instead of a riding one

Enjoy the power of a quick walk


Putting one foot in front of the other isn’t just a way to get around. It’s effective, low-impact exercise that can help you increase fitness, improve cardio health, and boost your mood — while putting less stress on your joints than running. Here are a few ways you can take more steps to better health:


  • Walk to work or errands, instead of driving or taking the bus.
  • For more distant places, drive or ride part way, then walk the rest.
  • In your office, pace around your workspace while you read reports or memos. There may even be a treadmill desk you can use.
  • Get your kids on their feet, too — walk with them to the park, play dates, or school.

Shrink your workout to fit your needs


Everyone’s life can feel overscheduled these days. But you might be surprised how often you can spare just 10 minutes. And even a 10-minute mini-workout can get your heart pumping, reduce stress, and help build your fitness. Find a way to do 3 or more 10-minute workouts a day, and you’ll be getting the same health benefits as you would from a longer workout.


Try these ideas to get more mini-workouts each day:


  • When running errands, park 5 minutes from your destination and walk briskly the rest of the way.
  • Meeting with a co-worker? Invite them to join you in a quick walk-and-talk.
  • Walk upstairs, then down, as fast as you can. Repeat as many times as you can in 10 minutes.
  • Play with your child or grandchild. For just 10 minutes, toss a Frisbee, shoot hoops, play badminton, dance, ride bikes, or play soccer.
  • Grab a pair of 2- to 8-pound weights and do 10 minutes of strength training, like shoulder presses, side lifts, lunges, bicep curls, triceps extensions, or squats.
  • Get an extra benefit from housework. Crank your music and clean quickly until you reach a good heartrate for moderate exercise. If you’re breathing harder, but still able to hold a conversation, you’re on the right track.
  • Jump rope slowly for 1 to 2 minutes, then jump fast for 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat until you’ve jumped 10 minutes.
  • Do 10 minutes of your favorite exercise video.
  • Turn on your favorite music and get dancing.

Go harder for less time


When your schedule is tight and you’re already exercising, you can try doing shorter, more intense workouts. Here’s a simple way to measure intensity while you’re doing a workout:


  • Are you able to sing? You’re doing light exercise. Try boosting the intensity to get more health benefits.
  • Can you carry on a conversation? You’re doing moderate exercise.
  • Not able to talk comfortably? This qualifies as an intense workout.*

Here’s a handy chart of moderate and intense activities that produce similar results:

Exercise longer with less intensity
(150 minutes/week)
Exercise harder in less time
(75 minutes/week)
Water aerobics (30 minutes) Swimming laps (20 minutes)
Bicycling 5 miles (30 minutes) Bicycling 4 miles (15 minutes)
Wheeling in a wheelchair
(30 to 45 minutes)
Wheelchair basketball
(20 minutes)
Shooting baskets (30 minutes) Playing basketball (15 to 20 minutes)
Pushing a stroller 1.5 miles
(30 minutes)
Running or jogging 1.5 miles
(15 minutes)
Playing touch football
(30 to 45 minutes)
Jumping rope
(15 minutes)
Raking leaves (30 minutes) Shoveling snow (15 minutes)
Fast social dancing (30 minutes) Climbing stairs (15 minutes)

It all adds up


No matter how packed your schedule, you can find time to improve your fitness level.


Just find one or more activities that you enjoy doing regularly, make up your mind to move when you can, and grab your opportunities. The more you can make exercise part of your everyday life, the more you can increase your energy, lower your stress, promote your overall health — and feel great.



TOPICSexercisefitnessStay ActiveWorkout