Every step counts

It is the most common excuse ever invented for why we can’t start exercising: ‘I just don’t have time.’? We all sense that life is busier than ever, yet how often do we manage to make time to watch TV, do our social networking, or make long phone calls? How come?

Psychologists believe that the ‘no time’ excuse is not simply an easy cop-out, but that it masks underlying negative feelings about exercise: that it will be dull and repetitive, that we may hurt or injure ourselves, that we might even embarrass ourselves in front of other people.

Always try and think of being active and exercising as a really positive choice. You are making the decision yourself to do something that will benefit you both in the short- and the long- term. That can start to diminish any negative feeling straightaway. Now you just have to use your time wisely…

The old advice about taking the stairs rather than the lift is a classic tip.

We all work in different ways. Having an exercise plan can be extremely valuable, but it is not always possible to be that consistent with shifting daily demands, uncertain timetables, a work pattern that may change every week, sometimes every day (especially if you are working for yourself), or after-school clubs that mean irregular pick-up times.

So here are a few ideas that may help you blend exercise into the frenetic nature of 21st century life:

Take five minutes for a walk in between other commitments or meetings. Then let those five minutes grow to ten and be aware of the improvement, gradually building it up to 30-minutes (but still with the mindset to put just those five minutes aside if time is really tight).

Think about trimming five minutes off your online time. Is there a TV programme you don’t really have to watch? Or alternatively could you use that TV time to exercise while you are watching it, jogging on the spot or doing some easy exercises, or with a quick step workout on the stairs during the ad breaks. Maybe leave out dessert after dinner and swap it for a post-meal walk?

You might be able to carve out even more time by encouraging your partner and family to take on some of the chores you are used to doing just because you are the one who always does them. If they see they are helping you feel better and they know how much you appreciate it, they will know they are doing you a real service. Or share exercise time with them: it’s great for children to see their parents actively enjoying exercise. It sends out a very positive message.

Take a longer, different route back from the high street shops when you do a bit of shopping. If you commute to work, jump off at an earlier stop every couple of days and walk the rest of the way. The old advice about taking the stairs rather than the lift is a classic tip precisely because it does work. The same is true of walking the dog: it’s excellent exercise because you’re walking yourself at the same time!

If you love talking on the phone, talk on a headset and catch up on calls while walking. You will be concentrating on the chat and probably won’t notice the fact that you are actually exercising (but of course do make sure you are not so distracted you forget to be aware of traffic).

You can use your time even more efficiently by combining two different activities together. Perhaps you have been meaning to get together with a friend who seems just as busy; why not agree to meet up and walk round the park while catching up? Or even explore trying new activities together – have a quick chat during or after a game of tennis, for example?

Keep up the good work even if you are travelling, for business or pleasure. If you are in a hotel with a fitness centre, make the most of it. Why not always pack some light exercise gear and running shoes as a matter of course, even if you don’t know whether there is a gym where you are going to be staying? Another time-efficient idea is to always keep a bit of fitness gear in the boot of your car, to make the most of any time you find yourself with any unexpected time.

Enjoy the moments when you do get to be active and then watch those slivers of time grow larger – but as always easy does it. Don’t expect instant results, and be patient as you start to see a rise in your energy levels and all-round wellbeing.