Mayo Clinic Health Library

Fitting in fitness: Finding time for physical activity

Updated: 10-30-2010

You know fitness is important for your health and well-being. And you want to get more active, but your days are a blur of work, household chores, errands, and time with family and friends. Setting aside enough time to sleep — let alone exercise — can be tough.

So how can you find time for fitness? The key is to be flexible and make fitness a way of life. And remember all physical activity — not just formal exercise programs — adds up to a healthier you.

Fitting in fitness at home

Time spent at home doesn't have to be "couch potato" time. To make fitness a priority at home:

  • Wake up early. Get up 30 minutes earlier than you normally do and use the extra time to walk on your treadmill or take a brisk walk around the neighborhood.
  • Make chores count. Mop the floor, scrub the bathtub or do other housework at a pace fast enough to get your heart pumping. Outdoor work counts, too. Mowing the lawn with a push mower is a great way to burn calories. Raking and hoeing strengthen your arms and back, and digging works your arms and legs.
  • Be active while watching TV. Use hand weights, ride a stationary bike or do a stretching routine during your favorite shows. Get off the couch to change the channel or adjust the volume.
  • Involve the whole family. Take group walks before or after dinner. Play catch. Ride your bikes. It's best to build up to about 30 minutes of continuous activity, but you can exercise in shorter bursts, too.
  • Get your dog into the act. Take daily walks with Fido or Fluffy. If you don't have a dog, borrow one. An enthusiastic dog may give you the motivation you need to lace up your walking shoes.

Work out at work

To fit in more physical activity while you're on the job:

  • Make the most of your commute. Walk or bike to work. If you ride the bus, get off a few blocks early and walk the rest of the way.
  • Take the stairs whenever you can. If you have a meeting on another floor, get off the elevator a few floors early and use the stairs. Better yet, skip the elevator entirely.
  • Take fitness breaks. Rather than hanging out in the lounge with coffee or a snack, take a short walk.
  • Start a lunchtime walking group. The regular routine and the support of your co-workers may help you stick with the program.
  • Put it on the calendar. Schedule physical activity as you would any other appointment during the day. Don't change your exercise plans for every interruption that comes along.
  • Take it on the road. If you travel for work, plan ahead. Bring your jump-rope or choose a hotel that has fitness facilities. If you're stuck in an airport waiting for a plane, grab your bags and take a walk.

More tips for fitting in fitness

Here are a few more ways you can add more activity to your routine:

  • Get more out of errands. When you go to the mall or grocery store, park toward the back of the lot and walk the extra distance. If you have a little extra time, walk inside for a lap or two before you start shopping. Keep a pair of walking shoes in your car so that you're ready when you find a few minutes for exercise.
  • Plan active outings. Make a date with a friend to hike in a local park, or take a family trip to the zoo.
  • Get social. Try a dance club, hiking group or golf league. Encouragement from others can help you stay with a new activity.
  • Join a team. Sign up for a softball, soccer or volleyball team through your local parks and recreation department. Making a commitment to a team is a great motivator.
  • Join a fitness club. Sign up for a group exercise class at a nearby fitness club. The cost may be an added incentive to stick with it.

There's no single best way to fit physical activity into your day. Your lifestyle, job and family responsibilities will point to the most convenient time and place for fitness. Do what works for you — and make daily physical activity a habit you keep.