Does this sound familiar? You try to exercise regularly, but can’t seem to find the time – or the energy – to make it a habit. You get stuck in an endless cycle of good intentions and frustrating results. Or maybe you’ve given up trying to exercise altogether, because it isn’t worth the effort – you just can’t make it work with your busy schedule.
Sure, you know that regular exercise can help you feel better, look better, maintain a healthy weight, and manage your stress more easily. And that it can help you live longer and healthier.
Still, it always comes back to time. Most women are juggling too many tasks every day – working, caring for children, helping older relatives, teaching, transporting, shopping – the list goes on and on. It feels as if they simply can’t find the time to exercise.
If that’s how you feel, you’re not alone – and there’s nothing wrong with you.
Because the problem isn’t you, it’s the advice you’ve probably received about the best way to start exercising regularly. The old way to get more exercise – take an hour several times a week to run or go to the gym or take a class – just doesn’t work for a lot of women. It’s a good approach for many men, and for some women. But for women who work, care for others, and handle dozens of responsibilities every day, that advice just doesn’t cut it. (Includes affiliate links)
And if you’re one of those women, that means just one thing – you need a new way to add more exercise to your life. A new way that works for you and lets you enjoy all the benefits of exercise – for your mind, body, and spirit – without adding another burden to your busy schedule.
This is the way I exercise, and have for years. I don’t run, don’t belong to a gym, don’t go to exercise classes, and don’t belong to any kind of exercise group. But I get more than enough exercise every day to meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. And, more importantly, more than enough to feel great, manage my weight, and keep my stress under control.
And I fit it into a schedule that includes a family, a job, and a side hustle – plus the usual busyness of life.
If that sounds like the kind of exercise plan you need, here’s how to get started:
The New Way to Get More Exercise
1. Make moving your default. Get into the habit of getting up and moving whenever you can. Walk while your children are at sports practices or other activities. Walk and talk with a friend instead of sitting and talking. Park farther away from your destination and walk. Get up from your computer several times a day and walk. Take a walk with your spouse after dinner. Get up and move during commercials.
For moms of school-age children, never sit on the bleachers at soccer, baseball, or football practices! This is my top exercise tip for moms – always get up and walk. Invite other moms to join you if you want to socialize, or walk alone if you want some peace and quiet and time to think.
When your children have indoor activities, find a place nearby to walk. I used to walk around the block at a church where my son’s basketball team practiced. I’m sure the neighbors thought I was crazy, just going around and around the block, but I didn’t care. That was a “down time” in my day, so I used it in a way that benefited my mind and body.
2. Track it. Use a monitor to keep track of how much you’re moving. I use a FitBit Inspire 2, which lets me monitor steps, distance, heart rate, and sleep. (This one also comes with a free year of FitBit Premium, which can be useful for women who are trying to create healthy habits.) And you can find dozens of other fitness trackers, from the very inexpensive to the very elaborate. You can also use a simple and inexpensive pedometer. The benefit with all of these monitors is that they let you know how active (or inactive) you’ve been, and they serve as a great reminder to get up and move.
Once you’re tracking, set a movement goal for yourself and try to meet it every day. Many people work on getting 10,000 steps a day, but if you’re nowhere near 10,000 when you start, that’s fine. Just set a goal and then increase it slowly as you get more fit. I get 10,000 steps most days of the week just by moving throughout the day (and I have a desk job!), but it took some time to build up to that amount and make it a regular part of my life.
3. Choose wisely – but choose. Every busy woman is a different kind of busy. Every one has a different schedule and different demands on her life. What works for a mom of toddlers won’t work for a mom of school-age children, a woman who’s caring for her elderly parents, or a woman with a stressful and demanding job. But all of those women can make time to add more exercise to their busy lives – if they get creative and work with their schedule and commitments, rather against them.
This means figuring out what will work for you – with everything you’ve got going on – and then choosing how to exercise with those limitations in mind. So, for example, if you’re a mom with young children at home, going to the gym at 6:00 AM probably won’t work for you, but putting your kids in a stroller and taking a brisk walk probably will. And if you have school-age children involved in after-school activities, taking an exercise class after work may not work for you, but walking while they’re at soccer practice or dance lessons probably will.
I have a busy day job, but my children are young adults, so I have to fit exercise around my work schedule but not around my children. That gives me certain flexibilities and certain limitations, so I work with the flexibilities and work around the limitations in order to fit regular exercise into my life.
Every busy woman is a different kind of busy. So identify your kind of busy, and then decide how you’re going to work within your busyness in order to add more exercise to your life. Don’t try to do something that makes sense for another woman but doesn’t make sense for you. But do choose a way to exercise that works for you – don’t accept “I’m too busy” as a reason not to get up and move your body throughout the day, every day.
What will work with your kind of busy? I don’t know, but here are a few of the many options –
- Workout with a 15- or 20-minute online exercise program. You can find hundreds of programs online that feature every kind of exercise imaginable – aerobic, strength, yoga, dance or just about anything else you like to do. Here are some workouts from Prevention Magazine as a place to start.
- Take regular walks around your neighborhood. If your children are young, load them up in a stroller or wagon. If they’re a little older, let them rides bikes while you walk. If you and your husband can get out and walk alone – in the morning or after dinner – make it a habit.
- Walk at lunch. If you work outside your home, take a walk during your lunch hour or find a place in your building to do a light workout. If you work at home, get out and walk before or after lunch.
- Dance. Dance with your kids, dance with a video, dance with your husband, or just dance by yourself. Dancing can be fun, intense, or even sensual. But it’s always a good way to move your body and work up a bit of a sweat.
- Get up 20-30 minutes earlier several days a week and exercise before you start your day. This is one of those tips for women that sounds like it was written by a man! And I’ll admit that I’m not an early morning exerciser. But, for some women, this works perfectly. So if there’s any chance at all that it might work for you, try it for a week and see what you think.
- Do active chores. Get out in the garden, rake the yard, or wash the car. Get the kids involved. If you don’t have a yard, consider doing the same kinds of chores for an elderly relative or neighbor.
- Exercise with a friend. Find another mom, a co-worker, or a neighbor who wants to get fit, and start exercising with her. This helps you stay on track, gives you an accountability partner, and makes the whole process a little bit easier and a lot more fun.
- Get your family outside for some active fun. Two or three times a week, get everyone outside being active and having fun. Kids love to play Frisbee, soccer, or catch with their parents. Ride bikes together around the neighborhood. Shoot hoops or hit a tennis ball around. On the weekends or when you have a little more time, take a hike or ride bikes on a trail.
Will the new way to get more exercise work for you? I think it will – but only you can decide. Try it for 30 days and see what happens – I think you’ll be surprised and happy with the results. Let me know in the Comments, or email me at hello @ healthylifetoolbox.com.
Bonus tip # 1 – Reduce the amount of time you spend on social media or television. If you’re like me, you can waste 30 minutes on social media or a dumb TV show without even batting an eye. Instead, divert 20-30 minutes of that time every day to exercise. Both your body and your mind will thank you.
Bonus tip #2 – If you really have difficulty fitting exercise into your schedule, consider investing in a treadmill. Yes, it’s an investment, but it can yield big dividends. We paid about $600 for our treadmill, and it’s probably the best $600 we’ve ever spent. No matter what the weather or time of day, we can always fit in some exercise. I use it almost every day.
Need more ideas and inspiration? Check out these 5 ways to make time for exercise.
And if you need a practical plan for adding exercise to your busy life, get a copy of my ebook Fit. Strong. Healthy. The Busy Woman’s 30-Minute Guide to Making Time for Exercise. Use the code FRIEND25 at checkout to save 25%.