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To Fit in Exercise, Make the Time

< Sep. 07, 2011 > -- You know exercise is important, but you just can't seem to fit it into your busy day.

Photo of woman on bicycle

If that's true for you, welcome to the club. More than a fourth of all American adults don't get any exercise at all, the CDC says. And a recent survey found that just 5 percent of adults had exercised vigorously in the previous 24 hours.

"In this day and age, with all the stuff we have going on, probably the number one reason is perceived lack of time," says Michael R. Bracko, Ed.D., a sport physiologist in Calgary, Canada. "People don't view exercise or physical activity as important enough to schedule it within their day. They can't find the time to work out. They've got kids, they're driving around, they're working, they're commuting."

Many benefits

Yet regular exercise has many health benefits. It helps the body regulate blood sugar levels and lower blood pressure, reducing the chances of developing diabetes or heart disease. It also maintains healthy muscles, bones, and joints, and can slow the effects of aging. It improves mood by promoting the release of hormones that reduce feels of anxiety and depression.

How much exercise do you need? The CDC says that adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as running, every week. In addition, at least two days a week they should do muscle-strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups.

Taking the first step

The hard part is finding the motivation to get moving. For some people, that may be a doctor's report saying that they are headed for chronic disease if they don't shape up. Others start exercising to look better or improve their athletic ability. Some work out for stress relief or enjoy the social setting that group exercise provides.

And if you're strapped for time, keep in mind that you can break your workout into chunks of 10 to 15 minutes each and fit it in throughout the day.

Dr. Bracko gives the example of soccer moms who take their kid to games. "They don't realize that's a great time to exercise," he says. But for those who do, "instead of standing on the sidelines, they're walking around the field or running intervals or something," he says.

For more information on health and wellness, please visit health information modules on this website.

'I Don't Have Time to Exercise'

If this is your reason for bypassing fitness, it's the granddaddy of exercise excuses. With the demands of work, family, and other obligations, this excuse seems plausible. Except when you consider that lack of exercise-and the poor health that follows-can affect the quality of every waking moment.

Here's how to overcome this excuse:

  • Make exercise a priority. If you think of exercise as being as important as brushing your teeth or any other "essential" routine, you'll find time.

  • Avoid the "all or nothing" trap. If you can't find 30 straight minutes to work out, try for three 10-minute blocks-or even one 10-minute block. A little exercise is better than none. Be flexible.

  • Incorporate movement whenever you can. Walk instead of driving. Climb stairs instead of riding the elevator. Do calisthenics, stretch, or ride an exercise bike while you watch television.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

CDC - How Much Physical Activity Do You Need?

NIH - Weight-control Information Network - Tips to Help You Get Active

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans