No matter how committed you are to working out, there are times in life when it is simply not possible to burn two hours a day on trips to the gym. Maybe you’re a caregiver to a spouse who can’t be left alone. Maybe you’ve got a demanding job and young children and also would like to sleep. Maybe you’re starting a new business and have to give it your all for the first year.
Those are all valid reasons to save the 10 hours a week you used to spend on your gym outings. But that doesn’t mean you have to put your health on hold. It may be months—or even years—before you can block out hours of your life for exercise again. Until then, here are seven ways to sneak in a little time to work out.
1. Embrace technology. We’re back—and you probably didn’t even know we were gone—after taking a quick timeout to do Fit in 5 Minutes, one of nearly 200 customizable workouts on Sworkit, a free workout app (unless you upgrade to the premium ad-free version). Is yoga your thing? Try Down Dog. You might not have time to drive 10 miles to an hour-long yoga class, but can you sneak in a 15-minute session in your basement?
2. Walk and talk. No one is asking you to skip that coffee date with your best friend so that you can go to the gym. Instead, get your morning Joe to go, then walk around the block with your buddy. You can take this same philosophy to the office. Instead of scheduling a sit-down meeting to discuss that new proposal, ask your colleague if she’d like to take your talk outside for a short stroll. Feet First, a nonprofit dedicated to building more walkable communities, has some great tips for hosting walking meetings.
3. View errands as exercise. You’d like to be at the gym, but instead you have to go to the grocery store, the bank and the hardware store. Don’t just slog through it. Instead, put on your pedometer or other step-tracking device and get ready for a little speed walking. Pick the far-away parking spot. If the bank is close to the grocery store, just walk there, then back to the car. It may not seem like much, but you can easily rack up a mile or two in an afternoon of errands.
4. Go for seconds. In the course of an average day, add up the time you spend brushing your teeth, waiting for the microwave or even washing fruit or packing lunches. Use that time to do standing booty kicks or glute squeezes. It all adds up.
5. Use TV time. There’s nothing better than hitting the couch after a long day to watch the game or your favorite show. But wouldn’t you feel better—and possibly motivated to snack less—if you spent the first 10 minutes moving a bit? Be creative. For 10 minutes, alternate marching in place and squats. Or designate commercials as crunch time and get in some sit-ups.
6. Make it a family affair. Instead of taking the kids to a movie, take them to the park and teach them how to play soccer. Or make it a tradition to go on short Sunday hikes. If you’re sitting outside watching your little kids while they play, get off your chair and join in. Let’s face it, moms and dads have to multitask.
7. Be really, really creative. This YouTube video shows a clever way to get in a workout while doing laundry. Convert many of your daily routines into opportunities for exercise. At the end of the day, you may even find it all added up to more than you would have accomplished in an hour at the gym. What’s more, studies are increasingly finding that short bouts of exercise can be just as effective as consolidated stretches.