Every person’s schedule is a little different, but most of us are busy. Very busy. Work, family obligations, volunteering, and a myriad of other responsibilities can quickly burn through every speck of your available time.
Even though it’s objectively important for a person’s well-being and overall longevity, it’s easy to put fitness on the back burner. Making time for exercise, time outdoors, and preparing nutritious meals isn’t easy when it seems like time is already limited. Here are three ways busy people can make fitness activities a regular part of their schedules.
1. Sprinkle Fitness Throughout Your Work Day
If you have working hours, children in the home, or other time obligations, it’s hard to make time for workouts. Setting aside at least an hour to change, drive to the gym, and get a workout done might seem impossible. However, nearly everyone can spare three minutes several times throughout the work day.
It’s true; three minutes isn’t nearly enough time to change clothes and get to the gym. However, three minutes is more than enough time to get up from your desk and do some beneficial bodyweight exercises. Not every workplace is going to be okay with their employees dropping down every hour or two and cranking out squats. But for those who have their own offices, work-from-home option, or have a flexible workplace, it’s a great option.
Small bursts of activity can really add up if they’re consistently done over the course of a workday. Taking 30 seconds every hour to do 20 pushups can put you over a total of 150 pushups each day. Over time, that can be enough on its own to see small improvements in strength and energy levels.
You can even invite coworkers to get in on the action. If you have Slack for instant messaging, create a separate channel for intermittent workouts. You can use a meeting scheduler program to check everyone’s availability and send out a blast with instructions throughout the day. After each participant has done the exercise, they can check in that they’ve completed it. It’s a fantastic way to have an exercise-based team-building activity that works even if employees aren’t physically near each other.
2. Integrate Exercise Into The Family Routine
Sometimes the only way to get things done is if you pack your kids with you or plan far in advance. Both options can come into play if you’re trying to squeeze exercise into your schedule.
During warm weather months, you can have certain days of the week when the whole family plans on exercising. For older children, this can be a long walk or run where they walk with you or ride a bike. For younger kids, you might need to invest in a stroller that can withstand long distances. As an additional bonus, pushing the extra weight can increase your workout difficulty.
Another way to make sure you get your workouts is to have a recurring weekly schedule. See if there are certain days of the week when your spouse, parent, or other family member can always watch the kids. Having a “standing appointment” for workouts rather than frequent last-minute babysitting requests is a better recipe for success.
3. Meal Prep
If you get home at 6:00 p.m., you typically have about 30 minutes to cook and serve a meal. That’s if you want to have any chance of getting the kids to bed at a reasonable hour, anyway. So do you whip up a nutritious feast of perfectly cooked meat and vegetables, all lovingly prepared from scratch? Nope, frozen pizza can be done in 20 minutes including oven preheating time.
Even if you don’t have kids, it can still be hard to find the motivation to cook healthy meals. What if you work long, long hours and don’t get home until 10:00 p.m.? Sometimes you just want to conserve your sanity and just have a bowl of cereal. It’s less time and fewer dishes to clean, but over time, poor eating habits can negatively affect your health. If you don’t feel like you have enough time to prepare meals, you’re more likely to take shortcuts.
That’s why meal prep can be a game changer. Just planning out meals for the next several days or a week can save tons of time in wondering what to make. Also, you’ll have a more focused grocery shopping list that ensures you have all the ingredients you need. That’s much more efficient than trying to cobble together a meal out of a pantry of unrelated ingredients.
And if you have freezer space, use it. It typically doesn’t take much more time to double or triple recipe portions, especially for dishes like soup. Set aside enough for one or two meals and then freeze the rest. So with very little extra effort, you have pre-made meals that just need to be thawed and reheated.
And when using your freezer for meal prep, most of the time you don’t even need to pre-cook everything. You can take crock pot or pressure cooker recipes and just put the raw ingredients into freezer bags. That saves you cutting, assembly, and dishwashing time down the road. Just thaw the bag and plop it into the cooking appliance of your choice.
Make It Business As Usual
There are always going to be times when you are unable to prioritize your health as much as you want. However, there are certain things you can do to increase your chances of success. Most of them revolve around making fitness a part of your established routine rather than something to squeeze into it.