So many of us associate exercise with a trip to the gym. If we’re not hitting up the stairmaster or weights, we feel like it doesn’t count. It’s easy to get down on yourself when you feel like you don’t have time to fit in a workout each day.
But luckily, it actually is possible to stay fit when there’s no time to exercise.
Staying fit and healthy involves so much more than structured time on fancy gym machines. Moving your body in any capacity is enough to burn calories, stay healthy, and even increase your fitness.
Related: 30 Ways to Improve Your Fitness
Before you feel like a failure for struggling to balance exercise with a busy schedule, remember that exercise might look different than you’re imagining. Just because you can’t make it to that spin class doesn’t mean your entire day is shot.
These 9 simple activities are a great way to stay fit even when there’s no time to exercise. Being intentional about your day will help you stay healthy, even if it’s been a while since you’ve completed a workout.
No matter how hard we try and how intentionally we plan, life gets busy. When you’re stuck in a busy season, try these 9 simple ways to stay fit.
9 Ways to Stay Fit When There’s No Time to Exercise
Increase your daily steps.
When there’s no time to hit the gym or run outside, make a point to pay attention to your daily step count. Purchasing a pedometer, Fitbit, or watch that counts your steps is a great way to keep track of your daily activity – even when you don’t workout.
Set a goal to hit 10,000 steps or just to increase your step count each day. Being aware of the amount of steps you take on a daily basis might end up providing more motivation that you expect. You might notice that you’re already clocking in over 10,000 steps without even trying, or you might find that your desk job provides little opportunity for daily steps.
Make a point to walk a bit more each day, whether that means taking the stairs, skipping the drive through or walking the dog, you’ll find that every little bit really starts to add up.
Improve your posture.
Stuck sitting down all day at work or school? Now is the time to really focus on your posture. If you’re anything like me, you’ve likely created some bad habits without even realizing it.
Not only can poor posture lead to back pain, but it can also decrease your overall circulation and shorten your spine.
One simple way to improve your overall health and fitness is to spend some time improving your posture. Make a point to check in with yourself regularly and adjust your posture if you have slipped back to old habits. Or, if you’re really feeling motivated, swap your chair for a stability ball. Sitting on a stability ball not only improves your posture, but it activates core and back muscles for gentle strengthening throughout the day.
Take a break every 45 minutes.
Find yourself at a desk more often than not throughout the day? Make a point of getting up for a walk break on a regular basis.
It’s so easy to lose track of time when you’re hyper focused on work. Before you know it, 3 hours have gone by and you’ve forgotten to get a snack – much less taken a brief walk break.
Setting a timer on your phone for a designated amount of time, say 45 minutes, is a great way to remind yourself that it’s time to get up – even if you’re knee deep in a project. Downloading an app is another way to track your activity throughout the day and make sure you get up and move frequently enough.
Not only will taking regular walk breaks help increase your step count each day, but they’ll prevent muscle aches and pains from sitting too long, help avoid the build up of lactic acid, and keep your blood circulating throughout the day.
Pick up your pace.
Have you made walking part of your regular routine, but still don’t feel that it’s improving your health or fitness? You might need to pick up your pace.
Speeding things up is a great way to make the most out of the time you have. If you have twenty minutes to spare for your regular dog walk, moving at a slightly faster pace might mean that you’re able to cover 1.2 miles instead of just 1. Or rather than walking 3 miles on your lunch break, you’re able to cover 4.
Increasing the intensity of a simple walk gets your heart pumping faster, burns more calories, and improves your fitness quicker than a slower pace. Try it throughout the day – take the stairs quickly, see how far you can get on your lunch break, or challenge your dog to keep up.
Clean the house.
While some activities may feel like a literal chore, it’s helpful to know that they might actually do us some good. Simple tasks such as vacuuming, mopping or walking around to dust keep you moving and active more than you even realize.
When you don’t have time to exercise because of a long to do list, make the most of your chores. Picking up a few extra tasks like vacuuming the upstairs or dusting under all your nicknacks will help you stay on your feet, gain some extra steps, and maybe even sweat a little. While you might not be able to make it to the gym, knocking out some chores will help keep you fit and healthy while you conquer your to do list.
Do some yardwork.
Similar to household cleaning, yardwork is a great way to fit in some exercise when you don’t have time to hit the gym. Raking, shoveling, weeding, mowing the grass and anything in between keep you moving and active while you conquer your to do list.
When time is pressed and things are busy, make your yardwork a priority. Not only will you make your way through some chores, but you’ll keep your body moving and active while doing so.
Ride your bike to the store.
Feeling like your commute takes away all of the free time that you could be using to exercise? Mix things up by riding your bike instead.
While you may not be able to bike the 20 mile commute to work, riding to the store down the street isn’t so unrealistic. When you don’t have time to exercise, swapping your bike for the car is a great way to include some fitness in your daily routine.
Bike to the grocery store (for just a few items), to your favorite restaurant, the video store, or the post office. Take the bike whenever it’s possible and you’ll get your heart pumping and burn plenty of extra calories along the way.
Stretch while watching TV.
Don’t have time to hit the gym but still have time for your favorite nightly show? It might be hard to get to the gym late at night, but that doesn’t mean staying fit is a lost cause.
Make a point to stretch while watching TV or during the commercial breaks. Get down on the floor and complete a few simple stretches to loosen your muscles, prevent lactic acid buildup and keep the blood flowing while you relax.
Not only is stretching on a regular basis a great way to stay healthy, it helps prevent muscle pains and common aches from sitting at work all day.
Play with your dog or kids.
If your schedule is so packed with family events that you don’t have time to exercise, try staying active along with your family.
When kids demand a majority of your time after work, make the most of it by getting off the couch and engaging with them. Challenge them to a game of tag, offer to coach the soccer team, or just hit up the park down the street.
If you don’t have kids, take your favorite four legged friend on a long walk, slow jog, or trip to your favorite trail. Getting outside and moving is a great way to exercise even when your schedule is too tight for a trip to the gym.
Remember that staying fit and healthy will look different throughout different seasons of life. Exercise will likely involve different activities when you’re raising a family than it did when you were single in college.
There is no right or wrong way to exercise. Staying fit involves a lifestyle choice: the choice to stay active, to be healthy, and to be intentional about your activities. Don’t get down on yourself when working out feels impossible with your schedule.
You might even find that with a few simple tweaks to your schedule, staying fit when there’s no time to exercise is easier than you ever imagined.