Ultimately, when you don’t make time to move your body, you sacrifice your long-term health and well-being. According to the National Institutes of Health, a lifetime of regular exercise is linked to longer health and can delay the onset of 40 different chronic diseases. In addition, physical activity can improve sleep quality, increase energy, improve balance, give you more energy, and boost heart health—all benefits that help you live a longer, healthier life. Exercise also has mental and emotional health benefits, such as helping to combat depression and anxiety while improving your mood.
Personal trainers are in the business of helping you reap these benefits of fitness. But they also get this: Life can make it hard to squeeze exercise into a busy schedule. “There are plenty of ways to increase your activity level without spending extra time on exercise sessions,” says Kate Meyer, CPT, a certified personal trainer at Gym Garage Reviews. All it takes is a little creativity and commitment.
1. Walk more in your day
“Consciously walking throughout the day will increase your activity level, whether it’s taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking further away at the supermarket,” Meyer says.
If you’re a desk worker, she recommends standing for at least a few minutes every hour if possible. Ben Schermerhorn, CPT, a master personal trainer at Lifetime, recommends NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) meetings. “When you’re in a remote meeting, try walking instead of sitting at your desk,” he says. “It will increase your activity level and keep you moving.” You can pace the room while on a call, or get out for a walk around the block. If you have a place in your office or home where you can stand during a Zoom meeting, it can even help to stretch your legs.
2. Establish a five- to 10-minute morning workout routine
Working out first thing in the morning or earlier in the day has many benefits, especially for your energy levels. “Morning workouts will boost your energy throughout the day, reduce stress, and allow you to think more clearly,” says Schermerhorn. “If you wait until after work, it’s hard to energize, and you have family, pets, or work obligations.” It would be easy to make excuses to skip a workout.”
Meyer recommends establishing a five- to 10-minute workout routine that you can do before the rush of the day begins “It can help wake up your muscles and brain to power through your day,” she says His top recommendation for quickly squeezing in an effective workout is high-intensity interval training. “Warm up for a minute or two, then pick two or three exercises and try to do 45 seconds of work followed by 15 seconds of rest. Cycle through the moves as much as you have time, then cool down for a minute or two. Expand,” Meyer said.
Brisk exercises that improve cardio include running in place, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, squat jumps, and jumping rope. If you want to focus on strength training, Schmerhorn recommends basic compound lifts to get the most bang for your buck: “Squats, deadlifts, bench presses and pull-ups will cover all the major muscle groups.”
Try this basic 10-minute routine that only requires a towel:
3. Give yourself small “exercise snacks.”
Whether you’re waiting for your coffee to brew, chatting for a few minutes before a meeting, or watching the kids at the playground, use this time to work in just a quick exercise or two. “Throughout the day, take a few moments at a time to do some movement,” says Meyer. “Knock out 10 air squats and 10 push-ups every hour or two—anything is better than sitting still.” New research shows that two minutes of vigorous activity per day can help you live longer.
4. Enable social outings and family time
Instead of going out for dinner, drinks or a movie with friends, make your social outings active. “Go for a walk or hike with friends,” Meyer recommends. “Even something like going to a museum is an activity that will keep you moving for hours without realizing it.” Family time can include sledding or playing Frisbee in the park. “Taking your dog for a family walk is a great group activity that gets you and the whole family moving,” says Schermerhorn.
5. Netflix and sweat
You can also add a little movement to your “me-time.” Put on your favorite episodes Gray’s Anatomy Do a quick HIIT workout while running on the treadmill or during each commercial break. “Watching Netflix or other streaming services on a stationary bike or treadmill is a fun way to exercise if you find it hard to get motivated,” says Schermerhorn.