7 Tips to Help You Squeeze in More Exercise Today

"I don't have time." "It isn't fun." "I can't afford a gym membership." "It's too hot (or cold)." We've all heard them and we all have them — excuses for skipping exercise. What's yours?

Mine has been that I didn't have the time. Of course I'd always known that exercise was great for my health, but I came to realize that I needed to get regular exercise to keep my weight in check. I know fitting exercise into an already packed schedule can seem like a real challenge, but think about this: A 30–minute workout is only 2% of your day. If I can do it, so can you!

As women, we need about 2 and a half hours of moderate–intensity physical activity (think brisk walking) every week and two or more days where we do things that strengthen our muscles. That means we need five 30–minute workouts a week, plus some strengthening exercises such as push–ups, squats, or weight lifting. That may seem like a lot if you're just getting started, so start small. Check out these tips to help you get started and stick with it.

  1. Break it down. Can't block off 30 minutes in your day for exercise? Break it down into three 10-minute sessions or try a 10– and 20–minute session. Whatever works for you — just make sure you're getting active for at least 10 minutes at a time. Need ideas? Get up a little earlier than usual and squeeze in a 10–minute walk around your neighborhood. Take a brisk walk during your lunch break. Turn on some music and dance while you're making dinner. Jog in place or do some push–ups and crunches while you're watching TV.
  2. Add exercise to your commute. Working in a city like Washington, DC, I know many people who choose to walk or bike to work. I know that's not possible for everyone, but it's a great way to start and end the day. If you take public transportation, consider getting off the bus or train a few stops earlier to add some extra steps. I don't live too far from my office, so I walk home most days. Not only am I getting 35 minutes of exercise, the walk helps me wind down and clear my head.
  3. Grab a partner. Getting motivated to exercise can be easier (and more fun) if you do it with someone else. Catch up with a friend for a walk, jog, or a workout class. Ask your partner to join you in getting more physical activity. If you have kids, get moving together or join in on their activities. Suggest a walk after dinner. Go for a bike ride in your neighborhood. Start a pick–up game of basketball or embrace the games of your childhood like hopscotch and jump rope.  
  4. Prioritize and plan ahead. There are never enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you need to do, but it's up to you to make time for exercise. Block off time on your calendar for exercise just like you do for a meeting or to have lunch with a friend. You can also look at your to–do list and decide what can wait until tomorrow. My laundry may be piling up, but I can squeeze in a workout instead. The laundry will still be there tomorrow.
  5. Start a challenge. Invite friends, coworkers, or family members to join you in a friendly competition. Log your minutes, steps, or miles every day. Seeing how much your competitors are working out can be a great motivator.
  6. Workout at work. Do you take breaks at work? Instead of hitting the break room, hit the pavement. Use your break time to go for a brisk walk. Do you have access to a gym at work? Whether it means going in early, using it during lunch, or staying late — use it! If the idea of running on the treadmill for half an hour sounds daunting, walk quickly at an incline. It's a great, low–impact workout.
  7. Don't underestimate the power of videos. Need something you can do at home any time of day? Get a workout DVD. There are so many different kind of workouts available — everything from dance to yoga to kickboxing. You can even collect a bunch of different types of workout DVDs to keep things interesting. The best part is a lot of these workouts combine cardio and strengthening exercises. You will also find a lot of great, free workout videos on YouTube.

It might take you some time to figure out what works for you, but don't get discouraged. It takes time to make something a habit, so start small and stick to it. Just get moving!