With the demands of a job as well as family, friends, and pets – not to mention laundry and grocery shopping – working in a workout can be hard. Ask anyone who is employed what his or her biggest obstacle is when it comes to exercise, and you’re pretty likely to hear – care to guess? – “I just don’t have the time.”
But making time is worth the effort given the bevy of benefits to body and mind alike. Physical fitness not only reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some kinds of cancer, it also helps keep bones and muscles strong, the mind clear, and stress levels low.
Running low on steam? It might seem surprising, but rather than drain you, regular exercise – that means most days every week – gives energy stores a lift. Not to belabor the point, but even moderate-intensity workouts improve feelings of anxiety, depression, overall well-being, and self-confidence.
Now how can you argue with that?
“But I really don’t have time,” you’re thinking. Jonathan Ross, a personal trainer and owner of Aion Fitness in Bowie, Md., puts it simply: “Fit people are busy, and unfit people are busy. It comes down to a choice between being busy and fit or busy and unfit.”
And time doesn’t really have to be an obstacle, after all. “A program that’s designed to get the most out of limited time will help fit a regular exercise program into a busy life,” he says.
On the clock
First off, schedule your workout time like any other commitment–that is, put it in your calendar, whether hard copy or electronic, says Jaimie Lehotsky, fitness manager at the Center for Health & Fitness at Loyola University.
Paige Havens, a sales manager in Davidsonville, Md., looks at her calendar each weekend and schedules her exercise for the coming week. With a husband, two adolescent kids, and a full-time job that requires traveling, “obviously things come up,” she says. “I’m the first to admit it’s challenging, but it’s just something I need to do for myself every day.”
Once you schedule your workout time, how should you spend it?
For optimum health you need to train your musculoskeletal system – bones, muscles, and joints – and your cardiovascular system, which includes the heart and lungs, says Ross. Strength or resistance training accomplishes the first; aerobic or “cardio” exercise, the second.
Find things you like to do, says Lehotsky. “If you’re not going to go to the gym, then walk briskly or bike around the neighborhood.”
Whatever activities you choose, try to do strength training two to three times each week; cardio, between three and six. If you can add in a yoga or dance class to improve balance and flexibility, even better.
Where, oh where?
Whether you work out at home, at a club, or at work all depends on where you’re most comfortable, say the experts. You can’t beat the price – or the commute – of exercising at home, but you also can’t beat the call of the telephone and other distractions.
Health clubs offer state-of-the-art equipment and onsite professionals, but they can be pricey and require a trip. Exercising at the office can be efficient, but you’ll probably need to pack a change of clothes, and you have to consider whether you really want to sweat alongside your boss (ew!) or coworkers.
Havens tries to be flexible. At a previous job, she would walk at lunch and eat a brown-bag meal afterward. Now, when back-to-back conference calls make it impossible to get to the gym, she’ll run instead. Or she’ll run at the park during her son’s football practice. When traveling, she packs exercise DVDs and resistance bands so she can work out in a hotel room. Push-ups, squats, lunges, and other bodyweight exercises that use your own mass (and gravity) rather than free weights are good options on the road – or during a 10-minute break at work.
Speaking of breaks, give yourself one if you need to shorten or miss a workout on occasion. What matters is that you make fitness a lifestyle, a priority. “I was running one day,” recalls Havens, “and a woman yelled to me, ‘What are you, training for - a 10K?’. I said ‘No, life.’ It’s as simple as that. I feel better about myself physically and mentally when I’m in shape.”
DID YOU KNOW? Victoria College’s Sports Center has a fully equipped weight room, cardio equipment, and indoor basketball and volleyball courts available for VC students, faculty, and staff.