6 Ways To Fit Exercise Into A Busy Routine
Is life getting in the way of your workouts? Here’s what to do…
“There aren’t enough hours in the day” is a vibe most of us can relate to – being too busy is the nightmare all of us deal with, with non-stop emails, work/uni problems and social arrangements constantly demanding our energy.
It’s left us all completely frazzled, and unsurprisingly has an impact on fitness. Many people say finding time for a workout is the biggest barrier preventing them from exercising regularly. As a result, the average Brit does less than half the NHS recommended 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity per week, missing out on the vital benefits that a good workout can bring.
So how can you carve out time in a busy routine and become more active? It’s actually easier than you think, according to these experts - all you need is some careful planning and to use your precious minutes cleverly…
Before you get started, here's how to train like actual Wonder Woman:
1. Embrace fast but effective forms of exercise
You don’t have to spend hours sweating in the gym in order to get fit - in fact, there’s growing evidence that short, sharp bursts of exercise are the most effective way to workout.
“Short, intense workouts such as HIIT are a super way to shed fat and burn heaps of calories” says Tom Jones, head trainer at F45 Stratford. “They also promote EPOC (excess post-exercise consumption) which is essentially the ‘afterburn’ effect of training, where you continue to burn calories after the actual session.”
Whether you prefer group workouts such as circuit training, or exercising on your own, there are plenty of ways to incorporate HIIT into your routine. You can even do it at home, says Liberty Cox, trainer at BXR London. “Pick four exercises such as squat jumps, burpees, mountain climbers and press ups and aim to do four rounds, with 30 seconds at maximum effort and 15 seconds rest,” she says. “This will give you a full body workout, getting the heart pumping and your endorphins going crazy.”
2. Schedule ahead
Don’t leave your workout plans to chance – preparation is everything when it comes to slotting fitness into a busy regime.
“On Sunday night, sit down and factor your workouts and classes into your weekly schedule” advises Liberty. “Book in everything at the beginning of the week rather than leaving it until the last minute, that way there are no excuses to opt out.”
This gives you a realistic idea of when you can fit exercise in during the week; a trip to the gym every evening might be impossible, but you might spot a slot for an early morning run or lunchtime Pilates class. Having it in writing makes you more likely to stick to the plan.
3. Make exercise social
When it comes to a choice between social activities and exercise, meeting up with your mates will generally win.
However, one option for busy types is to combine the two, and make your catch-ups active.
Fitness blogger Mary Pearson says she gets her friends on board with staying active. “Rather than meeting up for coffee and cake, get together for a run or walk instead, or try a more adventurous activity,” she suggests.
From bike rides to indoor climbing, there are lots of fun ways to catch up with mates while also getting your day’s exercise done, and this can actually have big advantages for your mental wellbeing, according to behavioural psychologist Dr Aria Campbell-Danesh. “Research has shown that working out in a group significantly increases your emotional quality of life, and reduces stress levels.”
You could even try to turn a friend into your regular fitness buddy, as this will help you exercise harder, says Tom, “Seeing somebody else give 100% motivates people to push themselves more” he explains.
4. Walk, walk, walk
It’s not just hardcore workouts that help us get fitter – even things as simple as walking can significantly boost your health. Walking has been linked to a whole host of benefits from keeping blood pressure in check to boosting vitamin D levels, and a brisk walk burns a surprising number of calories.
Try going for a walk every lunch time, take the stairs over the escalator and swap bus or car journeys for a long walk to boost your step-count and help you get fitter. If you find walking boring, download a podcast to listen to, and for extra motivation, consider investing in a Fitbit to keep track of your daily steps and encourage you to beat your targets.
5. Make workouts work for you
One of the main reasons people don’t have time to exercise is because they are too rigid in their workout regime.
If you’re time-poor, forget any form of exercise that is difficult for you to get to, occurs at an awkward time or you simply don’t enjoy - if this is the case, you’ll always find an excuse not to do it.
Instead, think creatively - maybe you can incorporate exercise into your journey to and from work or uni? “I started run-commuting because it saved me time, money and was far more reliable than taking the tube” says fitness blogger Gill Bland. “You don’t have to run the whole way if it’s not possible - even jogging halfway then hopping on the bus is great.”
Runner and blogger Julie Creffield agrees: “I love exercise that’s multi-tasking and kills two birds with one stone, such as running to visit friends or home from an event instead of using the car” she says.
Consider signing up to a gym or class near your workplace if possible; that way you have the option of building a pre or post-work fitness session into your daily routine, which will soon become habit. You could even consider a lunchtime class. “These are hugely popular as people feel ready to attack a session by midday, and it puts them into a positive mindset for the afternoon, full of endorphins” says F45 trainer Tom.
6. Get up earlier
You might not want to hear it, but squeezing fitness into your daily routine could be as simple as getting up an hour earlier.
We’re not talking a Michelle Obama-style 4.30am workout here, and you should certainly still aim for the recommended seven to eight hours sleep a night. However, skipping the late night Netflix binge and instead getting up for an early morning sweat sesh is a great idea for the time poor.
Not only does it leave you with the satisfaction of completing a workout by breakfast time, but you’re less likely to find an excuse not to exercise. It’s not often we have a surprise appointment at 7am, whereas evening workouts can easily be thrown off by sudden work demands or last minute meet-ups.
“Do it early before your brain realises” recommends Gill. “Make sure your kit is ready the night before, then just throw it on and go. Your brain won’t realise what’s going on until you’re halfway through.”
Just don’t be too smug when you bounce into work afterwards…
Words by Sophie Hines