When it comes to finding time to exercise, let’s start with some facts. Each of us has 168 hours per week in life. Many of us work about 50 or so hours per week, sleep about 50-60 hours per week, spend another 15-20 hours each week on personal care and grooming, leaving most of us about 6+ hours each day to_____________________. Fill in the blank.

How to find time to exercise each day.

We fill in our time with what’s most important to us. As I said in an article I wrote for Greatest: Many people who don’t work out regularly can rattle off many reasons they’re not motivated to exercise, from not understanding the benefits of activity to thoughts like “I’m too busy,” “I’m embarrassed by how I look,” “exercise is boring,” and so on. The folks who hold these (false) self-sabotaging beliefs often believe exercise doesn’t matter; they don’t enjoy it, or they simply have no interest in doing it. And, really, who could blame them? Who would be inspired to start a physical activity with negative thoughts running through their head? A person has to believe exercise is of value in order to build motivation to do it.

Benefits of Exercise
As you already know, there are many benefits of exercise:

  • Weight management
  • Health and disease management
  • Mood and self-confidence enhancement
  • Energy booster
  • Promotes healthy sleep
  • Puts oomph into your sex life
  • Reduces stress by increasing brain soothing chemicals
  • Helps your brain function better
  • Sparks creativity
  • Your muscles, lungs, diaphragm, heart, stomach, kidneys, skin, joints, agility, balance, coordination, endurance and strength will all “smile” and say thank you many years from now.

 Every Minute Counts
Today we know that even brief bouts of exercise, just 10 minutes at a time or less, can add a great deal to your health and well being while also slimming your waistline. The good news, remarkable really, comes from researchers at the University of Utah who found that every minute of intense movement counts towards the magic number of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity we are all supposed to achieve each week – but only 5% of us do.  That’s 150 minutes out of the 48 or so hours we have available to us each week.

The findings indicate that brief periods of intense activity are effective in preventing weight gain and promoting health as well as doing 10 minute+ intervals. Moderate to vigorous activity, by the way, is walking about 3 miles per hour, or 2,020 counts per minute on an accelerometer. Clearly, every minute you spend in intense activity, counts.

This suggests that the data on the best time to workout may be ignoring an important element—your life. Sure there are those who believe that for A-list athletes aiming for performance it might be better to push heavy training to alter in the morning or afternoon, the fact is that most who adhere to exercise routines are early morning exercisers. Bottom line is whenever you enjoy hitting the gym or track, do it. There’s benefit throughout the day.

Get Creative about Getting Active
How can you get in short bouts of more intense exercise and find the time to get in your 150 minutes or so a week? Try these tested ways:

  • Like a good scout, always be prepared. Don’t leave your home without your workout clothes packed
  • Keep your workouts scheduled in your day planner —make an appointment for yourself! Remember that every minute counts.
  • Wake up earlier and get your health plan moving, and your heart rate pumping, at the start of the day.
  • Park away from your office, get off the train, subway or bus a few blocks before your normal close stop
  • When you watch TV, use the commercials as reminders to do your squats, lunges, push ups, burpees, jumping jacks, planks, and crunches during the one-minute break.  Keep hand weights next to your chair/couch, ride your stationary bike and never use the remote control to change volume or channel.
  • Make your lawn mower your newest piece of fitness equipment—ever hear of Carioca mowing? It’s all in the step!
  • Walk to the office of the person you’d normally call and keep a jump rope in your briefcase or office drawer too!
  • Make your chores count by scrubbing with vigor, grinding and stirring with some beats per minute, vacuum-dance with energy, wash your own car with upper body pushes, and shovel the coming snow (if your health allows) in tune with your favorite RockMyRun music mix.

While exercise is key, taking time for yourself every day is critical for your health, well being and longevity. It’s all in my CHAIR method I recently described in an article for Prevention.com.

C stands for a deeply felt commitment to very specific goals. You see the goal; you know why you’re doing it.

H is for healthier foods, healthy carbs and proteins, healthy fat. ‘Diet’ is a word I never use.  It has the word ‘die’ in it.

A stands for activity.  Daily activity, daily tracking of food and exercise. If you track, you adhere. Shoot for 10,000 steps a day. But even raking leaves counts as activity.

I is inner motivation—you have to have your ‘why.’  And it has to be internal to you.

R is for a realistic set of goals. You need something very tangible, like you want to be off blood pressure medication—not just I want to lose some weight or tone up.

At the end of the day it’s all about thinking. The ‘link’ is what you think.” When you think you don’t have the time ask yourself if what you think is True, Helpful, Inspirational, Necessary, Kind to yourself. Hey, that’s what “THINK” means! If your answer is “No,” then change your thought and get active. It only takes a minute!

What tips to have to stay active?  I’d love to see your thoughts in the comments below.

Post contributed by Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.  Dr. Mantell has served as a long-time Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego and today is the Senior Fitness Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise, a behavioral sciences coach, an author and a national fitness-health speaker.