You know that it’s good for you, but how do you fit in exercise when you don’t have time or simply despise the gym?
Research has found that regular exercise can make you smarter, help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, prolong your life and is more effective than dieting for maintaining weight loss.
The benefits are great, but finding the time and mustering up the motivation to work out is another story. As a working mom, I know all about feeling like there is just no time left for a workout.
Thankfully there are realistic ways to squeeze in workouts when you don’t have the time or the inclination to hit the gym.
1. Manageable morning workouts
You don’t have to wake up at 5am to hit the gym.
If you have to get your kids ready for school, make lunches, and do the school run before work, here’s a realistic quick morning workout plan – set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier and follow a 10 – 15 minute online Pilates or yoga workout.
This approach works because you don’t need fancy equipment, it’s quiet (so you won’t disturb your family or neighbours) and, because the focus is on strength and flexibility, you don’t work up a big sweat like you would on a run but you still have a great workout (even in your PJs).
Here’s a great 10-minute full-body Pilates workout to try:
2. Take movement breaks
Everyone can benefit from adding movement breaks to their day.
A study by the University of Utah’s School of Medicine found that two minutes of walking every hour helps offset the health hazards of sitting for long periods of time. It also helps boost your weekly calorie burn.
According to Prof Srinivasan Beddhu, lead author of the study, in a 16-hour day two minutes of walking each hour burns 400 kcal a week, which is not far off the recommended weekly moderate 600 kcal a week exercise goal.
Even if you can’t get up every hour, try walking around the office, climbing up and down a few stairs or marching on the spot a few times a day.
3. Multitask movement
Sometimes, multitasking is the only way to fit in a workout.
From cleaning your home to playing with your kids, you can turn almost any daily activity into an opportunity for what researchers have dubbed HIIPA – high-intensity incidental physical activity.
HIIP activity is similar to high-intensity interval training (HIIT). It’s done by repeating short sessions of high-intensity exercise with rests in between. Ideally, you should aim to fit in three to five brief HIIPA sessions in a day if that’s the only way you’re getting a workout.
You can do this by running and playing with your children at their pace, walking uphill, brief brisk walking sprints, cleaning your home as fast as you can, taking the stairs instead of the lift, parking the car at the edge of the car park and carrying shopping back instead of using a trolley.
If you’re a parent, you could also try to squeeze in mini workouts while watching your children play. For example, while playing at the park, try doing a series of plies, squats and lunges while pushing your child in the swing.
4. Lunchtime walkout
You need a proper break from work to keep performing at your best, so take that lunch break and squeeze in a workout too.
Lunchtime workouts don’t mean that you have to require a gym membership or that you need to shower and reapply makeup. Simply go for a walk and explore the area or enjoy a local park.
The greener your lunchtime walking route the better – a study from the University of Exeter found that people who spend at least two hours a week in nature (cumulatively or in one go) have better physical and mental health than those who don’t spend time in nature.
5. Do a HIIT workout in the evening
Ask any personal trainer about how to fit in exercise when you’re short on time and they’re likely to recommend a HITT workout.
HITT (high-intensity interval training) is favoured by many because it has been shown to help burn more fat and build muscle in less time than regular workouts. Plus you can follow a HITT in the comfort of your home, with minimal equipment, by following a DVD or online workout.
While it was once believed that HITT workouts could disturb your sleep if done in the evening, recent research has found that 30 minutes of high-intensity exercise performed in the early evening does not negatively affect sleep and may even reduce feelings of hunger.
Another new study found that doing just three 20-minute HIIT workouts a week (a total of 60 minutes) is the equivalent of doing the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
Here’s a great HIIT workout to try at home:
And there you have it – five fast ways to help you get moving without putting a foot in the gym.
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