How to Incorporate Fun Ways to Exercise into a Busy Schedule

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • A friend emailed me recently stating, “Ugh! I'm overweight, overworked and can only find time to walk the dog every morning and every night (no matter rain, cold, summer heat). I've tried several times to make it a goal to go walk during a break at work, but breaks are few and far between.”

    That statement made me thankful for the challenge that one of the HealthCentral producers offered to me – how to find fun ways to incorporate exercise into your lifestyle. So I asked some of my friends who are at various stages in their lives how they shoehorn physical activity joyfully into their busy lives.

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    Let’s start with my friends who have jobs and kids. My friend Shana, like many other people, has to really wedge physical activity into her day. “As a full-time communications professional with feet firmly planted in writing/pitching/promoting all things traditional and new media and the parent of three children under the age of 10, my exercise regimen consists of leaping to judgment, jumping to conclusions, running my mouth, racing thoughts at 2 a.m., and juggling impossible deadlines/expectations,” she said. “If I can swing a daily shower by myself, I'm doing good. But I do take the stairs in the college and the parking garage. Baby steps. Literally.”

    Another friend, Kathy, also has a busy job and is a published novelist, along with being married and having a young son. She tends to work activity into time spent with her son. “My son and I turn on music and dance in the evenings, and we walk and hike. If it's not fun, we don't do it,” she said. “Swimming is big with us, too.”

    Another busy professional, Sondra, splits her time with her husband and teenage son and her active participation in the local Down’s syndrome group. Like Kathy, she does try to work in physical activity with her son through running 5Ks, biking and kayaking together. However, she also makes sure to work in exercise into her daily routine with the idea that she needs to be able to keep up with him. “I am a member of a local running club. We run on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. Distances and training routines vary. I also attend boot camp for strength training for 30 minutes after our runs two days per week and one additional day per week as part of my running club membership. I also love to walk my dog and ride my mountain bike!”

    Several of my friends don’t have children (or have grown children), but they still find to balance exercise with commitments. For instance, Kaye is a high-level administrator who also is committed to her job but even more so to her health. Here’s her advice: “I go to the gym first thing in the morning (before work) but I also try to exercise in the evening when I get home. Rather than going back to the gym, I force myself to do an exercise circuit of 3-4 exercises during the commercials while I'm watching TV. The circuit often includes simple body weight exercises like jump roping, push-ups, crunches, and squats. It's quick and (somewhat) painless, and it makes me feel better about the guilty pleasure of spending an hour or so in front of the tube.”

  • Ann, another high level administrator, goes for simplicity when exercising. “Walk, walk, walk!” she said. “It's inexpensive, easy on the joints, improves your mood, clears your head and has HUGE health advantages!”

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    Brenda is a busy professional woman, active in her church and community, and has a number of very cute grandkids on whom she dotes. Despite these multiple demands on her schedule, she always makes sure to put herself on her calendar. Her advice to you: “Make sure to find a least one hour a day for yourself because you deserve it. I work out on my lunch break, going for a 30 minute walk or doing interval exercise with 15-20 minute ab work. I have done this now for the last few months. Along with juicing and logging my food, I have lost 9 pounds. It works if you work it!”

    And what if you’ve already retired from the workforce? Retirement shouldn’t knock you off your exercise routine if you find what you love to do with good friends and have a goal in mind. “First of all, I want to be fit and healthy. I want to maintain a reasonable weight and a reasonable level of fitness,” Jan said. “I do boot camp three days a week with a group of women that have become my girlfriends. The one who recruited me has since left the camp but I immediately made friends with others who are there. Then I run three days a week with girlfriends (a different group). I've made running and working out a 27-year habit. On various occasions I've suffered the embarrassment of being new to workout groups and being the slowest runner. That's a small price to pay to stay fit. I feel there is power in numbers. I always keep at least one girlfriend who was available to run with me, meet at yoga class, or take a class with me.”

    So the lessons I’ve learned from these responses include:

    • Make exercise a daily priority.
    • Consider exercise a “present” to yourself.
    • Find someone (whether it’s a human or a canine friend) to join you while exercising.
    • Find ways to squeeze exercise into your day (such as climbing the stairs or dancing around the den).
    • Get up and move while watching television or doing some other potentially sedentary task.

    So on that note, I’m going to take Kathy’s advice and take an exercise break to dance around the office listening to Pharrell Williams’s infectious tune, “Happy.” I hope you will join me!

Published On: March 26, 2014