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
- 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.health.gov/PAGUIDELINES/guidelines/default.aspx. Accessed July 25, 2016.
- Get moving: Easy tips to get active! American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/GettingActive/Get-Moving-Easy-Tips-to-Get-Active_UCM_307978_Article.jsp#.V5beh6ImGLU. Accessed July 24, 2016.
- Fitting in fitness. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/healthy/eathealthygetactive/getactive/fitting-in-fitness. Accessed July 24, 2016.
- No time for exercise? Try our top 10 tips to get more! American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/GettingActive/No-time-for-exercise-Try-our-Top-10-Tips-to-get-more_UCM_442855_Article.jsp#.V5WLBaImGLU. Accessed July 24, 2016.
- Gillen JB, et al. Is high-intensity interval training a time-efficient exercise strategy to improve health and fitness? Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism. 2014;39:409.
- Gibala MJ, et al. Physiological adaptations to low-volume, high-intensity interval training in health and disease. Journal of Physiology. 2012;590:1077.