Most of us do not have the luxury to work out at our leisure because of our busy schedules. The best time for us is when we can manage to do it on a regular basis, without finding excuses not to! For some, that may be morning or upon waking even though your body is not at its peak because it hasn’t yet been properly fed and warmed up. Conversely, late evening is not suggested because your body is starting to wind down and tire for sleep. Night owl work outs speed up your metabolism, disrupting proper sleep patterns.
Many researchers believe the best time to exercise is mid-afternoon to early evening when hormone levels are at their peak. During mid-afternoon hours, flexibility, strength, muscle fitness and endurance are believed to be at their highest levels. Studies show that those who work out at this time have better sleep patterns. Patrick Gaito, a certified personal trainer, says to workout when you can fit it in. “Don’t get too caught up with the optimum times to burn fat,” he says.
Even though exercising doesn’t take that much time, you still have to allow time for it in your schedule. Researchers know that short bouts of exercise can be just as effective for weight loss and health as longer workouts. In one study, researchers compared two groups of exercisers, those who did short bouts of exercise (multiple 10-minute workouts) and those who did long-bout workouts (20-40 minutes of continuous exercise). They found the short-bout exercisers:
- Were able to stick to their workouts more consistently
- Exercised more days a week than the long-bout group
- Accumulated more exercise time each week than the long-bout group
- Lost an average of 19 lbs versus 14 lbs for the long-bout group
Other studies have found that shorter bouts of exercise also helps lower cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease just as longer exercise sessions can. Knowing that you can break up your workouts into a few 10-minute sessions, does the lack-of-time excuse start to lose its allure? Only if you delve a little deeper to find out what’s really behind your lack of exercise.
If exercise isn’t a priority for you and you’d like it to be, take some time to go through these steps and answer a few questions. Getting insight into why you do what you do (or don’t do) is the only way to change things for the better.
- Admit the truth. Do you really lack the time to exercise is there some other reason you’re not fitting in workouts? Start by exploring your perspective on exercise and whether it’s really a priority. Next, explore other reasons why you don’t exercise to get clear on what’s really stopping you.
- Ask yourself: If I commit to exercise, how would I accommodate it? Sit down with your schedule and see what you come up with, reminding yourself that you’re not committing to anything just yet. Maybe you could get up 15 minutes early for a strength workout or use part of your lunch hour to take a brisk walk. Make a list of all the times you could exercise, no matter how short.
- What routines would I need to change in order to exercise?. With your previous list in mind, what would have to change if you used that extra time for exercise? For example, for morning exercise, you would have to gather your exercise clothes the night before and get up earlier than usual. Go through each step in your mind or, better yet, practice one day to see what would have to change if you did this on a regular basis.
- What kind of exercise would be appealing to me? If you were to wake up in the morning and exercise first thing, what would sound good to you? A quick walk outside? Yoga exercises? A circuit workout? Make a list of activities you enjoy and imagine doing those activities on a regular basis.
- What kind of exercise schedule could I live with right now? If you had to schedule exercise this week, what would fit in with your life right now? A 15-minute walk before breakfast and a half-hour at lunch? A quick jog with the dog after work or a workout video before dinner? How many days of exercise would you be willing to commit to? Forget about how many days you should exercise and concentrate on how many days you will exercise.
- Practice, Practice, Practice. Using all the information you’ve gathered, set up a workout schedule and commit to practicing it for, say, two weeks. Then, reassess and see how you’re doing. Do your workouts fit well with your current routines? Is it working or do you need to make changes? Practice is how you determine what will work and what won’t.
Too often, we worry so much about getting the perfect amount of exercise in that we end up getting no exercise at all. It’s tough to let go of the idea that long, sweaty workouts are the only ones that ‘count,’ but in the new world we live in, we have to make some changes in how we live. Making time for exercise, even if it’s just 5 to 10 minutes at a time, is your first step to making it a permanent part of your life.
Gaito shares some more insight into getting a workout into a busy schedule:
Q: How can you exercise in the office?
A: Do isometric exercises at your desk by pushing your hands against each other, pushing your legs against the floor, stretching your neck by turning it from side-to-side and holding it for three seconds on each side. At lunch you can do squats, lunges and arm pull-ups. Go for a walk, then eat at your desk.
Q: For those who work from home, how can you exercise at home?
A: Buy a few small dumbbells, two or five pounds, an exercise ball and elastic tubing. They will cost around $75 total. Target, Meijer and Wal-Mart have all these items at reasonable prices. Then buy some workout videos that incorporate the above and do full body exercises.
Q: How can you exercise on a budget or when you don’t have access to gym equipment?
A: Use items from your house such as canned goods, books, rope, chairs and pillows to do exercises such as arm curls with the canned goods or use the back of the chair as support for squats.
Q: How much time per day should the typical female workout for it to be effective and how many times per week?
A: You should do a blend of strength training plus cardio. For strength training, run or walk twice a week for an hour. For cardio, run or walk twice a week for an hour. If weight loss is a goal, do more cardio.
Q: What exercises can you do that don’t require a gym?
A: Squats, lunges and deadlifts using an exercise ball or no equipment at all. Also, step-ups: step up and down two or three steps.
Q: How can you get motivated to workout and keep it up on a busy schedule?
A: Get a goal and focus on it, for example, losing weight before an event. Read fitness magazines cover to cover and look at the pictures. Tell your goals to someone and keep them informed of your progress. Weight loss tools are a must, so keep a food daily food diary and weigh in every day at the same time.
Q: How can you eat healthier at work when you don’t have time to pre-plan meals or when take-out is the new eat-in?
A: Eating healthy is the most important component to total fitness. Learn what to eat and what to avoid, plan your daily meals in advance and keep a food diary.
Photographer: Neysa Ruhl Photography
Location: Gateway Quarter
Model: Jennifer Brewer
Makeup Artistry: Jocelyn Sparks, Zoë Custom Cosmetics