Find Time to Exercise on Your Busiest Day

Here's how you can optimize your workout minutes.

January 23, 2012

When do you work out? First thing in the morning? On your lunch break? After work, before heading to the grocery store? Whenever you do it, you're not the only one who has trouble finding time to exercise. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), squeezing physical activity into our busy schedules has led to a rising trend in quicker, more intense workouts.

THE DETAILS: An annual survey by the ACE of more than 500 fitness experts, personal trainers, and health specialists found that time-efficient workouts will be one of the top 10 fitness trends in 2010. With financial and time contraints making it hard to find time to exercise, folks are choosing activities that focus on quickly building strength and endurance, such as boot camps and circuit-training programs. But whatever kind of exercise you prefer, there are some simple steps you can take to make any workout more productive, even if time to exercise is scarce.


WHAT IT MEANS: The benefits of exercise are well documented; one recent study found that even a low level of fitness can cut your risk of death in half. For advice on fitting fitness into a busy schedule, we talked to exercise physiologist and ACE spokesperson Fabio Comana, M.S. His suggestions:

Streamline your prep time. When time to exercise is short, you want to use as much of it as possible for actual exercising. Keep your exercise gear in a separate, organized drawer so you won't be scrambling for it; pack your gym bag the night before, and leave it by the door to grab on your way out of the house. On the way to your workout, keep a clear plan in mind so you don't waste time deciding which equipment to use or which running route to follow. And talk to the busiest, fittest-looking people you know to find out how they manage to find time to exercise.

Exercise in the morning, if you can. There’s no "right time" to exercise. “Bottom line, it needs to become scheduled as part of your day, so schedule it when it fits,” says Comana. That said, if you can fit your workouts into the first half of the day, do it. You'll give you a bit more bang for your buck, and there's less chance that something will happen to preempt your exercising. The truth is “that the longer you wait in the day, the less likely you are to fit in workouts as your day gets away from you and fatigue sets in,” Comana.

Read on for some fast-paced workout ideas.

Choose multipurpose moves. When time is at a premium, your best bet is to favor exercises that train several muscle groups at once. Women's Health offers a fast, body-toning on-the-go workout of "supersets" that use your own body weight as resistance. For more calorie burning, try's interval-training workout, which condenses a half-hour's worth of exercise into 8 minutes. Men's Health offers this fast-moving, five-step fat-burning workout.

Become a NEAT freak. Exercise doesn't end just because you've put away your sneakers, says Comana. "To promote health and weight loss, we need to think beyond exercise and enhance our lives with NEAT—nonexercise activity thermogenesis." Any activity that gets your muscles moving can be considered a form of exercise. Standing instead of sitting, walking instead of driving, using the stairs instead of the elevator—all these things burn calories and contribute to your fitness. Do whatever you can to avoid sitting for most of your day.

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