10 Ways to fit exercise into your schedule even when you don't have time
May 17, 2022

10 Ways to fit exercise into your schedule even when you don't have time

Rachel Wadsley, PhD

According to the Department of Health and Science, 80% of Americans don't get enough exercise. If you think the recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week sounds like a lot, you're not alone!

Life gets busy, and there’s only so much time in the day to get everything done. That's just a fact. And yet we want to do more. We want to eat healthier. We want more time for exercise. We want to get to bed at a decent hour, so we don't wake up feeling like zombies. 

We can't create extra time, so how do we balance a busy schedule with all the things we want to do for ourselves? In this article, we’ll go over 10 ways you can add regular exercise into your day even if you have only a few precious moments to spare. 

Micro workouts

An exercise routine doesn't need to be 60 minutes or even 30 minutes long. According to the University of Utah, even one-minute exercise session make a difference for your overall health! So if you can't fit in a longer workout (or don't want to), look for places in your day where you can do several minutes of physical activity. Set yourself a tiny goal to start with and once that becomes easy, add on another minute or two. 

Make it convenient

How many things do you regularly go out of your way to do? And of those, how many do you enjoy doing? Probably not many if they’re inconvenient. Set yourself up for success by making exercise more accessible (and enjoyable).

Have clean workout clothes ready the night before or tucked away where you’ll need them. Choose the closest gym to your work or home, depending on when you like to workout. 

Look for exercises you can do where and when you want to do them. Bodyweight exercises are always a great option. You don't need any equipment, experience, or particular location to workout. Learn more about bodyweight exercises here

Assess screen time

Do a time audit of your screen time. The average person spends one-third of their day on devices (for non-work activities). It's incredible to see how much time gets sucked into social media, funny cat videos, and binge-watching shows. 

Scale back on screen time to make room in your day for exercise. Some ideas you can try include taking a screen break in between videos you’re streaming, doing squats during a commercial, or setting a timer and walking for two minutes after 15 minutes of screen time. 

Do something you like

We make time for the things we enjoy. This means choosing an exercise you think you should do instead of the one you want to do is setting yourself up for failure. Some people love to run, and others would rather eat dirt than run for endless miles. Be curious and try different exercises, from solo activities to group classes. Find something that sparks your interest!

Schedule it like a meeting

While you might not like meetings or going to the doctor, you schedule those tasks and show up. Make your health a priority by adding workouts to your calendar to protect that time. If you're using a public calendar and don't want others to know what you're doing, switch the settings to private or label the workout session as "busy."  

Add up the little moments

You're likely getting in more activity than you realize from your daily routine and household chores. Everything adds up. For example, are you walking the dog? Bam, you've done 5-15 minutes of walking. Trainwell trainer Grace helps her clients think of ways to take advantage of opportunities for organic movement. Park farther away when running errands, take the stairs at work, or do one lap around the office before using the restroom or filling your coffee cup. 

Get the family involved

Trainwell trainer Allison suggests including the people in your life into your health journey. We find it easier to make time for others in our lives and put personal time last on our priority list. Consider having an active date night, hiking with your family, or doing a group exercise class with your friends. Plus, having someone else there makes the time fly by.

Walk during meetings and phone calls

A favorite way to get in more movement at trainwell (formerly CoPilot) is walking during phone calls and meetings. Walking is one of the best exercises you can do. It's easy, free, and low impact. Allison says you get extra points for walking outside. The fresh air does wonders to clear your mind and lets you soak up some vitamin D.

Habit stacking

Adding something new (or extra) into your day might feel overwhelming even if you've scheduled out some time. Make it easier on yourself by pairing micro-movements with something you’re already doing. This is known as habit stacking.

Allison's clients love this technique. Her go-to phrase is "when in doubt, squat it out!" Some examples of what her clients do include squats while brushing their teeth, calf raises while washing dishes, or five arm curls each time they grab a soda or bottle of water. Read our article on habit stacking and maximize tiny pockets of time in your day. 

Check your mindset

When creating a new routine, mindset can make or break your success. It's easy to get sucked into all or nothing thinking and derail your whole week if you miss one workout. Or maybe you think what you're doing isn't good enough, long enough, or "whatever enough." 

When your self-critic pops in, take a pause and challenge those thoughts. An excellent place to start is being neutral. Here’s how that might look…

Inner self-critic thought:  "I knew I wouldn't have time to do my workout today. This is a waste of time!" 

Neutral thought: "I didn't have time for today's planned workout. I can do 5 minutes of stretching before bed which is better than nothing." 

Wrap up

You've learned that exercise can mean many things, and there are ways to find pockets of time in your day. Play around to find what works best for your life. This might mean having some backup plans for days or weeks when your regular schedule gets thrown off. Start small and create doable goals. 

If you want some support, get a free trial of trainwell. Your dedicated habit coach and personal trainer will help you create a custom routine for movement, nutrition, mindfulness, and active recovery habits. You'll get continuous support with video calls, in-app messages, habit tracking, how-to videos, and more. 

Start your free trainwell trial today! 

Written by Rachel Wadsley, PhD

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