Exercise: Are You Really Too Busy?

Daily exercise is a commitment, it's true. A big commitment. And in a world where we're already so over-committed to family, friends, school, and work, it is difficult to imagine making one more commitment.
10/05/2011 08:13 am ET Updated Nov 30, 2011

"I don't have time to exercise -- I'm just too busy!"

How often have you thought this? Are you one of those many people who have surrendered to the demands of your busy life at the expense of your own health and well-being? Maybe you have a job or business that has taken over your life, or perhaps the needs of your family keep you constantly running from morning until night, leaving no time for exercise. Maybe both pertain to you, along with a myriad of other reasons why there's just no extra time for exercising your already exhausted body. Maybe when things change and everyone else's needs are under control, you might be able to start thinking about exercise. The problem, however, is that you suddenly wake up ten years later and wonder whose body you're "wearing"-- only to realize that it's your body and it has changed and grown in ways that you never dreamed possible. And some of those health problems you've always heard were possible due to a lack of exercise become a reality for you -- another thing you hadn't planned on!

Daily exercise is a commitment, it's true. A big commitment. And in a world where we're already so over-committed to family, friends, school, and work, it is difficult to imagine making one more commitment. But what about your commitment to yourself and to your health? Eventually, when you physically, mentally, and emotionally burn out, what good will you be to all those other people? Long-term exercise commitment begins with oneself -- not the reverse. When was the last time you made yourself get to exercise on a regular basis until it became so enjoyable that you actually couldn't live without it? Well, guess what? You can't live without it! At least not a long, healthy, and vivacious life filled with energy, strength, and vitality. I know, you're wondering how to fit one more thing into your day. If you get creative, you can do it.

I know there have been times when even I, an exercise trainer, have grappled with carving out the time to exercise -- like during those years when I was a working, single parent of small children, or when I was taking care of my husband when he was going through cancer treatment. It was very difficult to put time aside for myself, but I made a point to exercise as often as I could because I knew it would help relieve my symptoms of stress, I would sleep better, and I had a better chance of staying healthy in spite of what was going on around me. And whether you're a caretaker, a stay-at-home parent, a busy professional, or someone who travels often, there are ways to incorporate exercise into what you're already doing.

Did you know that cardiovascular exercise is cumulative? You can get your 30 minutes of cardio in by breaking it into more manageable time segments, like three 10-minute segments per day. Maybe you take a 10 minute walk on the treadmill or an outdoor walk in the morning before you start your day, then you do another 10 minutes during a lunch break or when picking the kids up from school. Or how about a brisk walk through the airport while waiting for your flight to board? Your last 10 minutes can be done at the end of your day as a way to unwind. Voila! There are your 30 minutes of cardio for the day. Cardiovascular exercise can be achieved in many ways, but the point is to get your heart rate up a little, and you don't have to set aside a huge chunk of time to do it. Nor do you have to get to a gym.

As far as incorporating strength training into your busy day, there are exercises you can do using your own body weight to keep muscles strong and toned, maintain bone density, and increase lean mass, which speeds up metabolism for fat burning. Some of these exercises are the basic squats and lunges, pushups, triceps dips and abdominal crunches followed by back extension exercises to strengthen low back muscles. Another solution is the strength workout tool that I created for my clients who are often on the go, the BodyWorksBand (www.bodyworksband.com). This latex exercise band has memory-jogging depictions of a full body workout printed across the band itself and can be done anywhere. You can even use it as a stretch aide. The important thing is to work your whole body in a short time while still working muscles in a balanced way.

Another thing to consider when making time for exercise is to hire a certified personal trainer. Though you still have to carve time out of your day, when you make an appointment to meet with a trainer, you're making a commitment in which you are accountable both to the trainer for his/her time, and to yourself. It's not as easy to blow it off when someone else is waiting for you. Along the same lines, if a trainer is not an affordable option for you, consider getting a workout buddy or a small group of buddies that you can split the cost with. Or just have a buddy or a group that you work out with to help motivate each other, without a trainer. Again, it's a way of holding yourself accountable and keeping your commitment.

When I look at how my clients are transforming physically, mentally, and emotionally, I have to ask myself how the "non-exercising" population can survive without regular exercise in their week. I know I can't, especially during those difficult times. Because exercise generates more energy, strength, and a sense of well being, it will actually assist you in more easily meeting the demands of your busy life. Furthermore, though I'm certain that you have heard most of this before, let me remind you of some of the benefits of exercise. Then, make time! You're worth it.

-Healthy heart and lungs
-Improved metabolism
-Increased energy and stamina
-Increased muscular strength and endurance
-Reduced risk of injury
-Improved balance
-Development of "functional strength" for daily activities
-Improved self-esteem and stress relief!

Estelle J. Underwood is a Certified Personal Trainer, the owner of Bodyworks for Total Health in South Pasadena and the creator of the BodyWorksBand.