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9 Ways to Add Exercise to a Busy Schedule

Busy parents don't have a ton of time for exercise, but this advice should help

You don’t need to run outside or go to the gym in order to burn calories. Jason Losee, DO, UnityPoint Health has advice on how to burn calories at home. His nine tips for adding movement to your daily routine can up your calorie burn without any equipment or much time. But, it does require a bit of effort.

How to Exercise with a Busy Schedule

“We use being busy as the cliché excuse for not exercising, but for many of us, it’s actually the truth,” Dr. Losee says. “It can be quite challenging to fit an exercise program into our already busy days. Being creative with finding ways to be more active during tasks we already do is becoming progressively more important, in order for many of us to obtain the benefits of exercise.”

Dr. Losee understands it can be hard to fit a single stretch of 30-45 minutes of exercise into one time slot. He says to fit exercise into a busy schedule, try aiming for 10, 15 or 20 minute stretches a couple times a day. To help, he offers nine ways you can get active by adding to your daily routine.

How to Burn Calories at Home

  1. Stop and move. Whether you’re paying bills, working from home or doing tasks in your cube at work, it pays off to take a few moments to stop and move around several times a day. It doesn’t really matter what you’re doing as long as it’s movement. He suggests even trying a bit of stretching.
  2. Join the kids. Stop making movement a chore by joining in with your kids’ activities. They often find fun ways to stay active in the house. They’ll also think it’s pretty cool that you’re taking an interest in their activities.
  3. Walk and talk. If you’re catching up with someone on the phone, walk around while you’re chatting. If you don’t have room to move, Dr. Losee suggests at least standing for the conversation.
  4. Add some music. Play your favorite, fast tempo music while doing chores or other tasks around the house, and get your groove on while you work. One down fall: Dr. Losee says his family often tends to do more dancing then house work.
  5. Make the most of commercial breaks. Most movies and shows have built-in breaks that are perfect for small spurts of activity. Dr. Losee says try adding pushups, jumping jacks, lunges, plank holds or jogging in place during commercial breaks.
  6. Skip the coffee. Replace a coffee break with a walk around your home. Dr. Losee says even a couple minutes of getting up and moving around can help boost your energy when you start to feel the midafternoon drag.
  7. Try a new app. If you are motivated by technology, try a new app. There are several free or cheap options to guide your home workouts, and most don’t require any equipment, like weights or yoga mats. Some apps can also help with proper exercise form, too. If you need help with number eight and nine, remember that option.
  8. Add lunges. If you have vacuuming of sweeping on your agenda, try adding a few lunges along the way. To do a lunge, keep your upper body straight up and down, and take a big step forward with one leg. Lower your hips until both knees are bent to about 90 degrees and step back to standing. Be sure to keep your forward knee behind your toes to avoid injury.
  9. Take a seat. OK, we aren’t talking about resting in a chair. Instead, while your food is warming up in the microwave, perform a wall sit. If you do a wall sit, you’ll just need to lean against the wall with your back, and keep your knees at a 90 degree angle.

How Long Should You Exercise?

If you’re wondering if small bits or longer bouts of exercise are better, Dr. Losee gives this explanation.

“Let’s say you decide to exercise for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening, and I decide to exercise for 30 minutes all together. The body can sustain exercise at a higher intensity for 15 minutes than it can for 30 minutes. So, potentially, you could exercise at a higher intensity for your 30 minutes (15 minutes each), than I would be able to during mine. However, if someone wants to train for an endurance event, like a 10K, the longer, lower intensity exercise is an important part of obtaining that goal,” Dr. Losee says.

It’s also important to first consider the fitness level of the individual. If someone is starting to exercise for the first time in a while, starting with a high-intensity workout is not the best first step. It’s always best to increase amount, length and intensity of exercise gradually to avoid injury and burnout.

“I tell my patients it’s OK to start small. Certainly, the recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five days a week is great. However, there are plenty of individuals that, for one reason or another, just aren’t there yet. It’s much better to start with one five minute stretch of low intensity activity two to three times a week and gradually increase, instead of running like a rabbit from day one and beating yourself up when you fall off the exercise horse,” Dr. Losee says.

Also, if you have a history of any heart troubles, discuss your desire to start exercising with your doctor to get recommendations regarding how long and intense you should start with.

Benefits of Exercise

Regardless of how you fit it in, regular exercise can offers a ton of benefits to your body.

  • Weight loss or maintaining weight loss
  • Improved sleep patterns
  • Controlled blood pressure
  • Keeping cholesterol and blood sugar in check
  • Improved muscle strength, bone health and joint function as we age
  • Better brain function in both young and older adults
  • Reduced stress, anxiety and depression

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