(Finding) Time to Exercise

time to exercise

What about those people who can’t find time to exercise?  I hear it all the time:


“I don’t have time to exercise.”

“I would if I could find the time.”

“I have kids and a job, there’s just no time to workout.”

“My job keeps me pretty busy and then I’m too tired to do anything after work, I just want to sit in front of the TV.”

Sometimes someone will say something about seeing my postings here, or on Facebook, or seeing me running or biking or we are talking about the regular exercises that I do – and it always seems inevitable, if they aren’t in good shape themselves; that a certain number of people feel that they need to explain themselves to me or give me an excuse for not doing the same.

I almost feel guilty, I don’t expect nor do I want someone to make an apology to me for their being in bad shape and/or overweight.

Weight training

Really, is your life so busy that you don’t have a half hour or hour once in a while, even with kids and jobs and hobbies and other things; that you can’t carve out a place for one of the most important things that we all need and that the majority of Americans don’t do?

I think of myself as a fairly busy person but I know that a certain number of people are going to say that I don’t know how it is because I don’t have kids.

Well, look around – plenty of other people find time to be fit and in good shape and eat well and they have kids and spend as much time with them as anyone else.  Indeed, I know a lot of people who have families, busy lives, hobbies, and lots to do but still have time to be fit.

And really, if you are someone who is responsible for kids, or is a caregiver for an elderly parent or other person, then you have an even more important reason to exercise and be in good health.

So there’s really no reason not to exercise, and the only excuses that a person should be making is to themselves.

Think of it this way – a little ‘inconvenience’ on a regular basis can become a regular routine and part of your life.  It pays off in feeling better and being able to do more things in the short-term.  And in the long run there will be fewer health issues and doctor’s visits and hospital stays and procedures and medicine and worry.  Those things that are going to take a hell of a lot more time and money than a small amount of exercise once in a while and regularly.

Not to mention the statistically higher chance of you having a longer life so that you can be around for loved ones as well as be in good health throughout your life, even when much older.

And don’t forget the mental and whole-life benefits of good fitness.  It boosts “good,” cholesterol and decreases unhealthy triglycerides, can even help with your mood.  The endorphins released during exercise can even make you feel much better if you are down.  You may find yourself calmer, more focused, less prone to depression, able to heal better and faster and recover from illnesses faster, it can help combat against arthritis and strengthen your bones, and give you more energy.

And a recent study by the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that people also scored higher on tests of memory, reasoning, and planning after doing exercise (though too much at once can temporarily dull this effect).  Not only are you exercising your body but you are exercising your mind and forcing nerve cells to fire, causing all sorts of compounds that can promote formation of new brain cells – which we normally lose as we age, and also increasing neurotransmitters that help those brain cell communicate with each other better.  It can go a long ways to helping to restore and protect your brain from aging, versus the deterioration of your brain cells and neurotransmitters when you are on a more sedentary path in life.

A good fitness regimen along with eating healthy will reap you even more benefits.  It’s never too early to start, and never too late.

My Dad is 96, and has always worked on a farm.  I wouldn’t say farm work is the safest thing to do, it’s quite dangerous, but putting aside the danger of it the health benefits of being active are easy to see when comparing him to someone else who is 95, or even younger.  As he advanced in years he still was doing things both physically and mentally that even many people decades younger than him couldn’t do – because they never kept in good health.


So what can you do if you’re busy and don’t seem to have time to workout, at least once in a while?

Firstly; as I mentioned above, make being healthy a regular routine, even schedule it into your planner or your family calendar (so that everyone knows that that’s your time to exercise).  Once it becomes a part of your life it won’t seem like a chore or something extra you have to do, or something you have to shoehorn in.  But it can take a while for this to happen for some people.

Which brings me to the ‘chore’ part.  One of the biggest issues you don’t want to associate with exercising or getting fit is that it is a necessary evil or a chore you ‘have’ to do.  If you do that you’re much more likely to give up on it or get sick of it.

Get in the right mindset.  Find something you enjoy, start out with that and then branch out.  You should find that as you get used to whatever things you have picked you’ll not only start feeling better in everyday life but you’ll want to build on those exercises, and add more and varied ones.  You may even start doing exercises that you might previously have thought of as something you’d hate and never do, or were too hard.

Your mindset is definitely one of the most important things – both in starting and continuing what you are doing.  I If you’re doing an exercise DVD and you’re talking back at the person/people on the screen then check yourself – maybe you don’t have the right outlook.  Maybe the DVD sucks, but more than likely you’re resisting it and aren’t thinking about it as something that is going to help you and that you can enjoy, or you’re just not getting into it.  And you may not enjoy it if you’re overweight and trying, but it gets easier.  And as it gets easier it gets easier to push yourself.  But if you really really hate a DVD, or an exercise, consider doing something else.

Okay, so probably the two most important things are finding the time and getting in the right frame of mind.  On to a few ideas, some of mine, some from around the Internet and from others I know.

Mountain BikingThis isn’t always practical, depending on your location and the weather, and how much you are going to sweat (!); but you might consider turning a commute into a workout.  If you’re close enough you can walk or bike, maybe even run.

Once in a while I bike to consult with a webpage customer, people seem to appreciate the ‘greenness’ of it and feel like they are contributing even though I’m doing the pedaling, and I get the exercise time out of it while also doing combining my exercise with making a few bucks.

Now here’s another, though like any of us need to lose any more sleep, huh?  But you can get up earlier to workout or to get more out of your day to make time for exercise.  As long as you can make sure that you are getting enough sleep in the first place.  Sleep is one of the most important things in your life so don’t cut yourself off on it.

Another idea; decide what’s really not that important in your life, or less important than being healthy.  I bet you can find something.

You can try cutting out some media – like a tv show here and there, or phones, movies, internet, etc and take that time to be more active.  But heck, you can be active WHILE watching tv.  And if that doesn’t suit you, then you can at least get a little in on commercials.  Even commercial time could really add up if you watch a lot of tv!

One of my niece’s watches TV or movies while also doing P90X at the same time.  If you do it enough – believe me – you get to know the moves with very little instruction from the disc.  As long as you make sure that you aren’t phoning in the moves either 😉

Lunch workouts – even something light is better than nothing.  Really that’s the case with anything on this list, something and anything is better than nothing.  Just don’t forget to eat too – it certainly shouldn’t be either/or.  And of course you if you’re doing anything intensive you want to plan your meal for afterwards 😉

ClockI’m sure you’ve heard this one plenty; use the stairs instead of the elevator.  My wife even ‘runs the stairs’, up and down, over and over, sometimes at her place of work as her workout for that time period.  And you’ll feel that the next day!

Try motivating yourself and others as well as making it more fun by working out with workout buddies, your family, your wife, or someone else.  Involve everyone in the family maybe, it’s not only good for you but good for them and nice for bringing the family together and teaching the kids about exercise, and getting more in touch.  Or try it with your friends, I run once in a while with a friend even though he runs somewhat slower than I.  But I enjoy the companionship more than my desire to keep to a certain pace.

Heck, you can even start a walking, running, biking, or general exercise group if you can’t find any family or friends to work out with.  Try posting on Facebook or Meetup or another site.

Do you sometimes take business trips?  Take an exercise dvd, a few free weights, or something to workout with.  Though you don’t HAVE to use anything, as bodyweight exercises are some of the best and easier exercise you can do.  The P90X series mentions sometimes various ways to do P90X DVD’s while traveling.  It’s a great series to do, even with just a few weights or even bodyweight in a pinch.

Sometimes you can even multitask; on a treadmill, exercise bike, etc.  Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t – it certainly depends on the person and the activity and how safe you are trying to do it; you certainly don’t want to be using a tablet while walking or something..

But one of the most important things you can do is just learn how to say ‘no’ to other people when you need to take care of yourself.  Learn how to say ‘no’ to doing things you don’t really need to do or aren’t good for you and use that time to exercise, learn how to say ‘yes’ to being healthier.  Once you can say ‘yes’ to yourself then you can commit to exercising, making a place and time for it in your busy schedule.

And remember – for you to be able to take care of others you have to take care of yourself.

I thought I’d ask a few friends and family who have been able to have successful lives and be fit at the same time what their thoughts were on this subject.

And I am happy to have gotten some great responses and to be able to present them here.


But I’ll start with my own story about how I came to carve out more time for exercise.  At the most I believe I was around fifty pounds overweight.  I say ‘believe’ because I wasn’t keeping track of how much I weighed, I didn’t have a scale even, and wouldn’t have gotten on one if I had one as I had no real interest in my weight.

I wasn’t terribly overweight but it definitely was something that was affecting me, and I even have a photo of myself with a hat that is perched precariously on top my fat head – even my head was overweight!  I still have that hat and now it fits my head perfectly; the rim of it right down to the top of my ears.

During winter my weight seemed to increase due to less activity, but dropped some during the summers – I could tell this from my belly size; no scale needed.

Growing up on a farm and being an outdoors sort of person I’d always done a lot of things outside, but that had declined somewhat in the last years before I started losing some weight and exercising more.  I still spent quite a lot of time outside but less time than before, and the heat always bothered me a lot.  While I still did a number of things like walking and hiking and biking it was fairly small amounts, especially compared to what I used to do when I was young.  A daily three-mile bike ride was a regular routine as well as working outside during the summer.

At some point my wife and I – through some telepathic and unspoken agreement – started to watch our food intake and started exercising a little.  I don’t remember talking about it, we just somehow started doing it a little at a time in parallel and together.

I don’t know which of us started the first thing on our path to health, but I remember that at one point I started to drink water instead of soda in the evenings.  It was always our habit to have a soda and watch tv at night, and during the weekends I would have two a day.

So I started to drink water sometimes instead of soda, or drink half a soda one day and a regular whole bottle the next.  Slowly I started completely cutting out the sodas and used water or something else instead.

And guess what?  I immediately started losing weight.  Just like that.  I wasn’t really doing anything else different at that point and the weight just started melting off.  And really, compared to how many sodas some people drink – I wasn’t ingesting a lot.  But cutting out sodas, even some, was all that my body needed to start dumping the pounds.

That encouraged me and from there I started doing a few other things too, and at the same time my wife was also tweaking her lifestyle.  We started walking the dogs regularly, and eventually we got a Wii and some exercise-type of games for it, then later a few exercise DVD’s.

Instead of sitting around, watching tv, or just doing random things on the computers/Internet or just sitting outside (when it was nice weather) – we started taking that time to exercise together.

And it was fortunate that we both wanted to do this whole thing together.  It has to be much, much harder going it alone – especially when you don’t have the support of a partner, or others in the house are sitting around and eating bad but tasty-looking stuff.   Or worse – criticizing you or trying to get you to stop getting healthy.

It’s amazing how many times I’ve heard about loved ones, co-workers, or acquaintances sabotaging or trying to sabotage a person’s progress (or even strangers – see this New York Daily News posting about the criticism that uber-fit mom Maria Kang got after posting a “What’s Your Excuse” photo).

At the beginning we didn’t take very much time out to exercise, we just did it regularly and watched our food intake.  Both of us lost pounds like crazy, not that it was anywhere near easy – those exercise DVD’s and exercise games on the Wii were hard for us, some were very hard.  And that’s what we needed – you can’t dump those pounds and get fit without sweating, and watching what you eat.  Mostly watching what you eat.

Our exercise room

Our exercise room.

So as time went on we graduated to harder DVD’s and longer workouts, a treadmill, and longer walks.  Then both of us took up running, we got more exercise equipment and weights, a weight-machine and I started expanding my biking distances.  And we took a spare space in the cellar and created our own exercise room.  It just seemed natural at this point.  We felt better, were getting in better shape, and even the hardest DVD’s and workouts and physical activity felt good.

Thank you evolution and endorphins.  (Endorphins are chemicals released by the pituitary gland in response to stress or pain, usually after a period of physical activity, and they bring about a feeling of euphoria and help to block pain and discomfort).

And it always felt like we were carrying out good accomplishments, versus sitting around.

Because sitting around wasn’t the norm anymore – doing something was.  Sitting around a little was the thing you did after exercise, as a rest and relaxation time, and/or as a reward for a good workout.

The loss of some spare time seemed minor compared to the benefits.  Sure, there’s sometimes now when the day seems like there’s not enough hours, but how many hours are you going to have if you’ve sat around all of your life and gotten fat and unhealthy and can’t move without being in pain or just plain feel like you don’t want to move, or are dead ’cause you didn’t get out and move around some?

How much time will you have then?  None.  If you don’t take the time now, you certainly won’t have the time later.


Jen from Jen’s Journey from PHAT to PHABULOUS writes:

In 2010 I embarked on a journey to finally lose weight after being obese my entire adult life. I quickly realized 2 things: 1) I would have to exercise to become healthy and lose weight and 2) I didn’t have time to exercise.

Having never been a person who exercised with any sort of regularity, I came to see what is reality – you don’t HAVE time to exercise, you MAKE time to exercise. And that requires adjustment and sacrifice. There is no way around that simple, but profound reality.

Of course I had a preset idea in my head of what exercise is. I would have to join a gym, right? Pay a monthly fee and pack a duffel bag and hit the gym every night after work, right?

Wrong. That wasn’t going to work for me – so what could I do? It began by making a commitment to walk the dogs at night. We didn’t go far – probably 2-3 miles to start with. But it was good for me and good for them.

And as someone who HATES exercising, I had to find something that I could enjoy. Walking the dogs didn’t feel like formal exercise. And then I got into some dance DVD’s. Dancing also didn’t feel like exercise.

But still, I thought, my life is SO busy – where do you find the time? I once again had to face reality. How many hours a day was I sitting in front of the TV doing nothing? How much time was I playing games on the computer or fiddling around with something that didn’t have to be done?

Too much time. “But I need to relax at the end of a long day” the fat part of me whined. “Too bad” the aspiring part of me that wanted to be thin replied.

So instead of sitting there and watching TV, I walked on the treadmill while watching TV. Or did some squats. Or lifted weights.

Instead of playing the computer after dinner I took the dogs outside and threw the ball and ran around and played with them.

It’s 4 years later, and exercise is a daily part of my life. And it still isn’t easier. There are still only 24 hours in a day. But I have run half-marathons. I am incredibly strong and fit – I am 41 years old, in the best shape of my life. I could kick the ASS of most 20 year olds.

And yet after working all day and coming home in freezing cold temperatures, the last thing I want to do is get on the treadmill and run. But I do it anyway.

Because the reality I know is that you can have RESULTS or you can have EXCUSES, but you can’t have both.


Heidi K. writes:

I guess as a stay-at-home mom (for the most part) and as a woman, I have always felt that my role is to take care of the family first, myself second. Keeping house, being a chauffeur to the kids, scheduling, helping with homework, substitute teaching etc. could take up every minute of my day. But I have come to realize that I need to take care of myself in order to take the best care of my family, which many women still don’t get.

It is important, not only for a woman’s physical health but mental health as well to exercise. I find that it is hard to step away from my four year old and let him watch a half hour program in the morning after putting my eight year old on the bus. I feel guilty putting him in front of the TV babysitter for 30 minutes so that I can get uninterrupted exercise time. But…… It eases my mind to know that I am going to be a better parent on an exercise day. I have more energy to play, more creative ideas, more patience, can multi-task, and have a more positive attitude throughout the whole day. That is why I make sure that I get my exercise time in the morning. By night, I am just too tired and ready to wind down and get things done that I could not get done during the day.

As an educator who believes in modeling behavior, I know that my kids need to see me exercising and making it a priority in my life so they will make it a priority in theirs. I do not want them to see it as a chore but a part of life to be enjoyed and celebrated as good health after finding the right kind of exercise that they enjoy. It makes me feel great when the kids want to try out or do an exercise video that they have seen myself or my husband do, try a new yoga move they have seen or just set up an obstacle course in the living room for their “exercise.” I know I had a hand in that, which again, reinforces that it is okay to take time away from the family for me time.

It is great to put the family first, but more beneficial to my family to put myself first for a small portion of the day.


Art R. writes:

2012 began in a dismal place. I had been out of work for 6 months. I found myself depressed, physically weak. Mentally, I thought I was going crazy. I had become extremely forgetful; I was unable to comprehend the simplest phrases. Someone would be telling me something, and in a split second I would forget everything they had just said. And to top it all off, I was tipping the scales at over 280lbs. At the time I thought the weight gain was the cause of my depression, and my mental and physical issues.

With encouragement, I decided to get a gym membership, and for the next year, I plowed my way through 5, 2 hour workouts a week, and I saw no results. My physical and mental issues were getting worse. Compounding my problems was the fact that, by the end of 2012, I was still unemployed, 17 months without a paycheck.

In March 2013, I finally went to my doctor. He took one look at me and immediately ordered a blood test to check my testosterone levels. He could tell just from my appearance and how I described myself that I was suffering from Low Testosterone, which the blood tests confirmed. Low is not the correct term, maybe super super low. I was running on fumes. A man my age should have a testosterone level of around 600-900. Mine was 121.

Low testosterone seems to be a very misunderstood condition. Most people associate this hormone with sex drive, and nothing else. Not having enough of this hormone was destroying my body and my mind. The cognitive issues, the depression, plus a host of other problems I was experiencing. And the weight. My weight gain was the first thing that clued my doctor in to what could have been the cause of all my ills. I was always a stocky person, my weight hovered in the 190-200lbs range my whole life. Almost hitting 300lbs was not the norm for me.

One thing that the body needs testosterone for is muscle. Exercise 101… to burn fat you need to build muscle. When the body isn’t producing the one thing you need to build that muscle, all the working out in the world does no good. I wasted a year on a treadmill.

Doc prescribed injected testosterone, which I inject every 2 weeks. After about two weeks, I immediately could feel my mood lighten, and my cognitive issues lessening. I was remembering things, and able to listen and comprehend what people were saying to me. It was like coming out of a deep fog. The weight pretty much stayed as it was, as, by that point I was tired of the working out and getting no results.

In March 2013, I finally was hired as an assistant manager for a national restaurant chain. Aside from what this job did for my emotional well being and self confidence, it also triggered my body into action. Managing a restaurant is an extraordinarily physical job. I was running around, lifting, tugging, pushing, you name it. I was working like this for 55-60 hours a week. After about 2 months, I noticed I had dropped 20 lbs. After 3 months, I had dropped another 15. By the end of summer I was 40 lbs lighter. Far from where I used to be, but I could at least roll over in bed without having to sit up first. Plus I could see a slight improvement in my muscle tone, which was nonexistent before my diagnosis. Just going to work every day was doing way more for me than anything at the gym ever could.

By January of this year I was hovering at around 225lbs. I was happy with the weight loss, but I still wanted to lose more, and noticed that, after 40, things don’t go back where they belong when you lose a lot of weight. I was in desperate need of toning up. I was given 6 sessions with a trainer for Christmas. Best Christmas present I ever got. 2 sessions a week, two hours devoted to nothing but strength training. In 6 weeks, I have lost another 10 lbs, and am seeing a great improvement in tone and muscle building.

Now, how do I make the time to do this, working so many hours and already being so physically active in that environment? I just do it. Even though I feel like I could be doing more, it has been very difficult to go beyond the two sessions a week, between the amount of hours I work, and the erratic schedule that I am on. Plus all of those little things that get in the way, appointments, errands, etc. The issue for me is more time. Which is an excuse, and not a very good one, considering that my gym is right down the street from me. My goal is to get in at least one more workout a week. If I am getting these kinds of results in 2 hours, think what three could do. It just takes organizing and planning ahead, both of which I am not good at. I continue with my medical treatments and I continue to try and take care of myself.


I want to thank those who contributed such great stories and experiences to this blog posting.

Do you have a story about how you have been able to fit your exercise into your busy life?  Post a reply below and tell us about it.

exercise heartrate

Marc M

I am a web developer and fitness geek, but I have a heck of a lot of differing interests.  Biking, the Internet, technology, movies, fitness, running and walking and hiking, science fiction, photography, graphics, WordPress, flying and aircrafts, pets and animals, history, and much more.  I like to stay very fit but I don’t mind sitting at my computer for work and play either.  I live in upstate New York (that’s far from New York City) in a rural area, yet close to a small city, with my beautiful awesome wife, a bunch of beloved cats and dogs and chickens in a very old multi-century house.

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