Change the time or intensity

Sometimes, you may not be able to get in a full workout. You can still work toward your fitness goals even when life interrupts your best-laid plans, though. Consider:

  • Breaking it up. It's great if you can get 30 minutes of continuous activity, but you can exercise in shorter bursts, too. Three 10-minute walks count toward your daily exercise goal.
  • Kicking it into high gear. If your activity sessions are vigorous, you only need to exercise half the time to meet the minimum weekly recommendations. Another option is high-intensity interval training, which involves 30 seconds of activity at your maximum effort followed by three to four minutes of low-level activity. That pattern is then repeated a set number of times.

    High-intensity interval training generally takes between 10 and 30 minutes a session. This type of quickly alternating activity produces many of the same benefits of continuous moderate-intensity exercise in less time.

Fitting in fitness at home and on-the-go

Time spent at home doesn't have to be "couch potato" time. To make fitness a priority at home:

  • Wake up early. Get up a bit earlier than you normally do and use the extra time to walk on your treadmill or take a brisk walk around the neighborhood.
  • Make chores count. Mop the floor, scrub the bathtub or do other housework at a pace fast enough to get your heart pumping.
  • Get outside. Outdoor work counts, too. Mowing the lawn with a push mower is a great way to burn calories. Raking and hoeing strengthen your arms and back, and digging works your arms and legs.
  • Be active while watching TV. Use hand weights, ride a stationary bike or do a stretching routine during your favorite shows. Get off the couch to change the channel or adjust the volume.
  • Get more out of errands. When you go to the mall or grocery store, park toward the back of the lot and walk the extra distance. If you have a little extra time, walk inside for a lap or two before you start shopping. Keep a pair of walking shoes in your car so that you're ready when you find a few minutes for exercise.

Work out at work

To fit in more physical activity while you're on the job:

  • Make the most of your commute. Walk or bike to work. If you ride the bus, get off a few blocks early and walk the rest of the way.
  • Take the stairs whenever you can. If you have a meeting on another floor, get off the elevator a few floors early and use the stairs. Better yet, skip the elevator entirely.
  • Take fitness breaks. Rather than hanging out in the lounge with coffee or a snack, take a short walk.
  • Skip the email. Walk to a co-worker instead of leaving a voicemail or sending an email.
  • Take it on the road. If you travel for work, plan ahead. Bring your jump-rope or choose a hotel that has fitness facilities. If you're stuck in an airport waiting for a plane, grab your bags and take a walk.

There's no single best way to fit physical activity into your day. Do what works for you, but make daily physical activity a habit you keep.

Aug. 06, 2016 See more In-depth