Experts recommend working out 45 minutes to an hour a day (30 minutes for beginners) for weight loss and fitness. But if you’re like most women, you don’t always have a block of 30 to 60 minutes a day to devote exclusively to doing your workouts.
You can still work out–you just want to sneak in the equivalent in resourceful means. “The concept is to keep moving,” says fitness specialist Ann Grandjean, EdD. “Get a cordless phone or put a long cord on your regular phone, and walk when you talk. Search for whatever works for you and just move. Park half a mile from the mall and walk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Those little, itty-bitty things add up.”
Every Stolen Moment Adds Up
Lest you think that short bursts of activity have a negligible result on your fitness program, think again. One study found that women who split their exercise into 10-minute increments were more likely to workout consistently, and lost more weight after 5 months, than women who worked out for 20 to 40 minutes at a time.
In a landmark study conducted at the University of Virginia, exercise physiologist Glenn Gaesser, PhD, asked men and women to accomplish 15 10-minute workout routines a week. After just 21 days, the volunteers’ aerobic fitness was equal to that of people 10 to 15 years younger. Their strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility were equal to those of people up to 20 years their junior.
In yet another study, researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore found that for improving health and fitness in inactive adults, several short bursts of activity are as helpful as longer, structured workouts. “It would be helpful for people to get out of the all-or-nothing mind-set that unless they exercise for 30 minutes, they’re wasting their time,” says Gaesser.
Breaking workout into small chunks on your overscheduled days can also maintain your confidence up, says Harold Taylor, time management expert and owner of Harold Taylor Time Consultants in Toronto, who has written extensively on the subject. “Skipping exercise altogether is ‘de-motivational’–you feel depressed and guilty,” Taylor says. “If you skip it, you tend to figure, ‘What is the use? I can’t keep up with it anyway.’ Yet as long as you make some effort each day, that motivates you onward. Success breeds success.”
Bear in mind, though, that short bursts of workout are meant to supplement, not replace, your consistent fitness routine. Here’s a roundup of practical ways to work workout into your day even when you “don’t have time to workout.” (You do not have to do them all in 1 day; decide on what works for you.)