The recommended two and a half hours of exercise sounds like a lot in a busy week. Splitting it up reduces it to twenty minutes a day – that is only five times as long as you spend brushing your teeth, which seems rather more achievable. Here are some ideas for getting active in a tight schedule.
It may still be warm outside, but many of us will have had the sudden shock that autumn is really here as we find ourselves turning on the lights much earlier. This has the strange effect of making us feel that there are fewer hours in the day, and if we are not careful one of the first things to go will be exercise.
As mentioned in this article, it is really easy to make excuses not to be active. The twenty minutes a day that are actually needed should be simple to fit in – it just needs a little time management and a spot of multi-tasking. There is also some new research which suggests that shorter, more frequent exercise sessions can be more effective for weight control.
So how can more exercise be fitted into a day? Let’s be honest – limitless internet access is one of our most terrible time-wasters. That whole world of sites to surf, pictures to see and social media updates to follow is tending to make us all spend far too much time with our faces pressed to screens. So once you have booked your exercise session online, make a resolution to spend less time web-surfing and more time moving around. Ways to ease the addiction include setting up your home router to switch off at certain times, and limiting access to websites that you know tend to consume too much time. There are even apps to do this for those of us who are not strong enough to police ourselves!
Talking of screens, what do you do while watching TV? We all have our favourite programmes, but how about clearing some space on the living room floor and doing some leg lifts or tricep dips. These exercises will still allow you to see the telly, although don’t compromise correct technique for that crucial moment in your favourite soap. And do make sure you don’t throw your hand weights through the TV…
If time is tight, gym workouts or swim sessions can be the first things to be squeezed out. Think about when the best time is for your workout – it can be challenging to fit a session into a lunch hour, but perhaps you can make up the time at either end of your working day. Find a gym near your workplace - this strategy cuts down on travel time and expense. Some people enjoy a workout before work, which lets them ease into the day in peace and arrive at the office freshly showered and raring to go. Others find that this leaves them half-asleep at their desk – for those, an end of day workout is probably a better idea!
A sedentary office job is another way to pile on the pounds, especially as working hours seem to grow ever longer. There are several tried and trusted ways of fitting in a few more footsteps into your time at the office without being accused of skiving. These include always taking the stairs, not the lift, and always using the toilet, photocopier or coffee machine that is furthest from your desk. If you are lucky enough to get a tea-break, do some gentle squats or stretches while you wait for the kettle to boil. If your commute is by public transport, think about getting off the bus a stop or two earlier. Londoners may well find it pleasanter to walk one or two extra tube stops in the centre of the city where they are close together.
Those with children will often wonder just what they did with all their spare time in the other life. School runs and after-school activities can turn parents into taxi services and leave no time for exercise. Ideas that may work include fitting more exercise into that school run. Try parking further from the school and walking more. This clears the school gates and is an excellent way of getting more exercise and burning off excess energy. Be aware that there may be some tired whingeing at the end of the day, so it might be worth taking the after-school snacks to the pickup. If the kids are doing some active evening activities, don’t feel guilt-tripped into doing the shopping while waiting for them. These timeslots are a perfect time to try to fit in a workout, a fitness class or some sport, even if it is too dark for an outdoor walk.
“Time is a gift” as the old saying goes – while we are all allowed to waste some of it, dedicate just a few of those precious minutes to activity. You may well be pleasantly surprised at the results.
by Jessica Ward
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