Finding time for daily exercise is easier said than done. As women, our days are not just full, they are jam-packed and overflowing with things to accomplish. Often times, exercise falls to the bottom of our To Do List and then eventually off of the list all together. Our jobs, our kids, volunteering, our social lives all demand more than 100% of our attention and energy. Do we have the sweat equity it takes to fit in not just 30 minutes 3 days a week, but now more than 30 minutes five times a week??? (Yep, the recommendations have changed…making it even harder to live up to our body’s healthy lifestyle needs). If the answer is, “NO,” then what consequences might we face? And, what benefits might we be missing? Is it worth making some changes to ensure that exercise always gets a check on our To Do List?
BENEFITS TO EXERCISE:
Exercise has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and tension, thanks to the amazing little endorphins that our bodies release with exercise. Running, Pilates, yoga…all amazing ways to let off steam after a stressful day at work, an equally stressful day at home dealing with a challenging toddler, or a day filled with the stress and uncertainty of infertility. Exercise also helps control our weight, decreasing our risk for an ever-expanding waist line…aka muffin top. So, if you want to stay in your skinny jeans, routine exercise is the easiest way to prevent the bulge. If those aren’t reason enough, exercise is a tried and true way to improve heart health. The number one killer of women in the United States is heart disease according to the National Institute of Health. While a lot of that is due to genetics, a lot of it is also due to lifestyle. Poor diet and a lack of exercise are a perfect set up for an unhealthy heart. Routine exercise is what the doctor ordered! Speaking of that…
NEW EXERCISE RECOMMENDATIONS:
The recommendations have changed. For years we heard 30 minutes 3 days a week. Now we know that at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate cardio (for example brisk walking) per week, plus full body strength training with weights, Pilates, TRX etc. at least 2 days a week are needed to stay healthy. If you are an intense exerciser (for example a runner) then you may be able to get away with only 75 minutes a week of intense cardio along with 2 days of strength training. If intervals are more your thing, mixing moderate and intense cardio along with strength training, you can get away with 2 days a week. Check out the updated CDC guidelines for more details.
The good news is that instead of needing a 30 minute stretch to make cardio count, the CDC is now pushing for a good 10 minute workout. It’s okay to break things up into small time chunks during the day as long as you are making them count with moderate to intense activity. Run the stairs. Take a brisk walk around your office or through the mall. Dance in the kitchen with your little one. It all adds up!
10 WAYS TO MAKE EXERCISE FIT INTO OUR BUSY LIVES:
1. Make it #1 on your to do list
If you don’t put it at the top…it isn’t going to happen. Making exercise one of your top daily priorities automatically increases the likelihood that you are going to fit it into your day. When you create your “TO DO LIST” always give exercise first place.
2. Book it and keep the date-make it about you
Make a date with yourself and the gym! If you don’t value exercise, you won’t exercise. Think of exercise as a well deserved reward for your overworked mind and body instead of seeing it as an annoyance. Think of it as YOU TIME! It is a time when you can clear your mind, listen to music, meet other people, glisten with sweat and be proud of it, feel healthier, wear tight clothes and get away with it, and even get away from the kids! Mark your weekly schedule with your exercise time. It is an appointment. You don’t get to cancel. You don’t get to move it. You work around it just like you would other important events on the calendar.
3. Let yourself have a preference.
It’s okay to dislike some forms of exercise. I am the first to admit that I hate running! I don’t just dislike it. I actually hate it. I’ve tried to change my opinion…but, I still hate running. Do I hate exercise? Absolutely not. A brisk walk, Zumba, circuits, Pilates, and TRX are all my thing. It’s okay to have a preference. If I set a running date each week, it’s the first thing I’m gonna cancel. If I book a Pilates class, I’m much more likely not just to keep the appointment, I’m going to look forward to it. Try new things out and see what you enjoy. Liking what you are doing is half the battle.
4. Make it count
With our busy lives, we don’t have time to waste. We need our workouts to be efficient. One of the best ways to get our bang for our buck is to find full body workouts. Interval training is a great way to incorporate both cardio and strength training. Running is a great way to get intense cardio, decreasing the amount of time that we need to exercise each week. Pilates is a full body strength training option that efficiently tones muscles even when done in short segments. Give your full attention to whatever exercise you choose. 10 intense Pilates style push ups done slowly and correctly are always going to be more effective and efficient than 100 sloppy ones.
5. Be competitive
It’s okay to let your competitive side out. Collaboration is a great thing, but when it comes to exercise, competing against yourself and others can push you to the next level. Joining a team sport may be a fun way to feed your competitive side while getting fit. While I’m not one for comparisons, eyeing the super fit lady next to you on the treadmill may keep you on there for an extra 5 minutes. Every minute counts!
6. Make it Social
Making exercise part of your social life is a great way to fit your workout in and look forward to it! Meet up with a friend for an afternoon walk or join a fitness class together. You can chat while you down dog, squat or stroll. If you have a little one, you can take them along if you have to. Secure them in the stroller with some music to keep them occupied while you and your friend catch up on the week. Walking play dates are a great way to get out of the house! Consider joining a gym that offers classes for you and child care or programs for your kids. Find one that a friend already goes to so that you can meet up during the day or after work.
7. Make it intentional…no excuses allowed
If you don’t decide that exercise deserves a #1 on your priority list…you are going to find every excuse in the book to get out of it. Instead, make intentional decisions that won’t set you up for failure. Keep a pair of gym shoes, work out clothes, and a towel in your car at all times as a back up. Having this stash will keep you on track if you “forget” your stuff one day and decide to head straight home instead of stopping at the gym. Set alerts on your phone to remind you of your exercise appointment. Mark it out on the family calendar as a mandatory responsibility. If you absolutely need to cancel your workout, figure out a way to fit it in on another day. The solution may be as simple as parking at the back of the parking lot or taking the stairs. Be willing to pay for a babysitter if you have to. It is money well spent.
8. Make it recreational
You don’t have to go to the gym to get fit and you don’t have to walk on a home treadmill either! You can exercise without even feeling like you are exercising! For example, schedule a date with your partner to go ice skating. Take the kids to the pool with another adult and tread water while they play. Pick a fun event like, The Color Run, and sign up as a family or with a group of friends. Grab a bike and pedal along the shoreline (wishful thinking as I look out my snowy window!) Exercise is really just activity! Creating an active lifestyle is a much easier way to stay fit and healthy than trying to fit exercise into your life. Not only can it be fun, it instills the value of physical activity in your kids when they see you moving.
9. Make it easy
Don’t make it hard on yourself! If you can’t get to the gym, run the stairs in your house or apartment building. If it is freezing outside, don’t try to go for a run if you are totally out of shape! Head to the mall and do some brisk laps while window speed shopping. If you can’t get a baby sitter, put the baby in a stroller or carrier and go for a walk. If you spend half of your day standing in lines, take the time to do calf raises and butt squeezes. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get fit. You just have to get smart with the little opportunities that you do have. Stairs are free. Sidewalks are free. Mall Entry is free of charge. If you feel like exercise takes away from quality time with your kids…get active with them. Pull out a soccer ball or basketball and play a game with them. Grab your bikes and plan one evening each week as family bike riding time. Even if your little one is a toddler you can get a seat or pull behind option for them. You don’t have to get up a 4 am to fit exercise into your day. That will only leave you feeling irritable instead of recharged. Instead, use 10 minute windows to get your heart rate up. New recommendations show that even these short bursts of time are incredibly heart healthy!
10. Keep tabs on yourself
Everyone needs accountability to succeed. Sometimes all you have is self-accountability…and that’s okay. Check in with yourself each week. Make an intentional effort to write down your exercise activities and the amount of time that you spent doing them. Add it all up and see if you met your heart and lifestyle healthy goal. If not, try again the next week…just a little harder. Don’t beat yourself up. Change takes time. Lifestyle change takes a consistent 30 days to make it stick. If you can find a friend to keep you accountable as well, that’s even better!
While your daily life demands everything from you…your body also has some requirements. By exercising, eating healthy, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep you will be better equipped to keep up with your crazy schedule. Give your body and your health the attention that it needs. An active lifestyle is a great first step!