When you’re feeling busy or overwhelmed, what’s the first thing you drop? Can I guess?

Is it exercise? (My guess is that it’s either that, or sleep. but today we’re talking about exercise.)

For many, many people I work with, exercise is always the first thing to go.

But why is it that when something’s got to give, it’s you? Your commitments to yourself. The things that make YOU feel good.

I think we all know the benefits of exercise, right?

It improves your mood, makes you stronger, helps you keep your weight in check, reduces the risk of a myriad diseases and helps you live longer. We all want those things, but yet, exercise is often the first thing to go.

But this response to an overfull life is often counterproductive; I know it’s an overused cliché, but you’ve got to put your oxygen mask on first if you want to help others. You’ve got to take care of yourself if you want the mental and physical reserves to take care of others.

Now you might be thinking, “OK, but I literally just don’t have the time sometimes” and if that’s the case, I’m going to show you several ways that you can get more movement into your life, even on your busiest days.

Before we get into tactics, I want to address something that often comes up around exercise and that’s “all or nothing” thinking.

You think “if I can’t get a 60 minute workout in at the gym, then I can’t exercise today.” But in order for any of the tactics below to work, I’m going to ask you to suspend disbelief on that one.

Instead, I want you to think, “any movement is better than no movement”.

You’re not perfect.

I’m not perfect.

Every day is not going to be the platonic ideal.

But that doesn’t mean you need to throw in the towel.

Here are a few ways you can build in more movement and exercise into your day, any day, even when you feel like to you don’t have a single minute to spare:

“Run” your errands

Got an errand to run? What if you literally ran them? This is actually something I do ALL THE TIME. I might need to return some books to the library, so I’ll walk there with the books, drop them in the slot, then run home.

Or perhaps I need to pick up a few items from the store. I’ll run there, then walk home with my grocery bags.

Do you chauffeur your kids to their various activities? What if instead of watching them the whole time, you went for a walk or a run? (I definitely used to drop my kids at swimming lessons and the go on a quick run.)

Worried your kids will be sad if you don’t watch them practice? Run or walk AROUND the soccer field or basketball court as they’re practicing. You’ll still see them.

Pick up the pace

When you’re walking throughout the day (maybe to the coffeeshop, or just to wherever you parked your car) pick up the pace. Pretend you’re Bill Nye a la “Speedwalker”.

Take the stairs (twice)

Instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs.

If you’re in your home (with no elevator, I presume), anytime you take the stairs, walk up and down them twice. It’ll take less than 15 seconds at a time, but you’ll be getting just a bit more movement in.

Short, no-equipment, YouTube exercise videos

There’s no shortage of free workout content online. Just search Youtube for “10 minute no equipment workout”.

I’m willing to bet you can fit this into your day, just as you would any other sort of break during the day.

Are you willing to exchange 10 minutes of Reddit or Instagram scrolling for 10 minutes of movement?

The New York Times’ 7 Minute Workout

Can you spare 7 minutes? Then you’ve got time for this workout.

You only need the floor space in front of your couch or at the end of your bed to make it happen. No equipment necessary.

Reframe the movement you’re already doing

This one takes literally no time at all.

There was a fascinating study done with hotel room attendants. According to the abstract:

“In a study testing whether the relationship between exercise and health is moderated by one’s mind-set, 84 female room attendants working in seven different hotels were measured on physiological health variables affected by exercise. Those in the informed condition were told that the work they do (cleaning hotel rooms) is good exercise and satisfies the Surgeon General’s recommendations for an active lifestyle. Examples of how their work was exercise were provided. Subjects in the control group were not given this information. Although actual behavior did not change [emphasis mine], 4 weeks after the intervention, the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before. As a result, compared with the control group, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index.” – NIH, National Library of Medicine

So, take a look at the movement required in your day. Is there anything that you can reclassify as exercise?

  • Do you chase your small kids around the park? That’s exercise!
  • Do you walk at all? Exercise!
  • Do you lift things, move things around, open drawers, bend down to unload the dishwasher, reach up to put away groceries, fold and put away laundry? Exercise! Exercise! Exercise!

Schedule it/Plan it

Don’t assume that you’ll exercise only “if you have time”. You won’t.

Instead, plan for it.

Personally, I time block my exercise on my calendar. This does 2 things: It helps me to actually fit it in because I working with the time I actually have, and planing in advance around it and it helps me stick to it because I’m used to showing up for what’s on my calendar

Tell me, how are you going to work in just a little more movement today?