There's time to exercise
Each TV represents one minute watched by the average American each day. Carving out just 30 minutes of exercise time each day — even in 10-minute chunks — can make a big difference in quality of life. And if you don't think you have time, you're mistaken.
In a recent survey of 2,000 American adults, more than a quarter of those asked said that one barrier to "living a healthy lifestyle" was lack of time. And hey, we understand — after all, since we're averaging 2.7 hours a day watching TV, 7 hours and 40 minutes a month social networking and reading blogs, and 90 minutes a month watching YouTube videos, who has time to drive to the gym, change into workout clothes and exercise?
Add in working, child care, commuting and meals, and we're all feeling squeezed for time.
Thankfully, there are ways to carve time out of your day. Even better, just 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity, five days a week, can lower your risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, US Department of Health and Human Services.
You can even break that 30 minutes of activity into 10-minute chunks and still get health benefits.
"I didn't believe it at first, but then I studied it and short, 10-minute sessions really work," says Dr. Thomas Altena, a triathlete and professor of exercise and movement science at Missouri State University. "It's a great way to get people exercising, and typically those who do short bouts start doing longer bouts of exercise."
The trick is to go at about 75 percent of your maximum heart rate (220 minus your age multiplied by 0.75).
"A lot of people have the idea that if you're going to exercise and be in shape, it has to hurt and you have to be an athlete to do it. But really, it's not that difficult to attain or keep that intensity," says Altena. "It's surprisingly less vigorous than what people's perceptions are."
Given that it takes just 150 minutes a week (30 minutes, 5 days a week) to reap health benefits, experts say it should be easy to find some time — if you're willing to commit to a healthier lifestyle.
Everyone has 24 hours a day to use, says Meghan Oefinger, a researcher and lifestyle interventionist at John's Hopkins University. "You need to decide to use part of that time for your health, then you need to decide what to give up."
When Oefinger meets with clients, she has them list how they spend their time and what they can't give up. Typical activities range from watching TV to checking e-mail and Facebook. "Some people will say, 'I have to watch 'Grey's Anatomy' or 'I have to go to happy hour.'" Clearly, there's room for exercise in our lives.
Here are the experts' suggestions for squeezing in your 30 minutes a day (5 to 7 days a week), or, for the truly time-crunched, fitting in 10-minute bouts of activity:
Get equipped. To eliminate travel time to the gym, buy a piece of your favorite equipment, such as a treadmill. Dr. Thomas Altena gets up early most mornings and works out on his spin bike. You can also keep an eye on your kids this way.
Decide what you're willing to sacrifice for your health. Altena is the single father of two young boys. He gets up to exercise before they get up, then goes to bed early. No late-night TV or heavy-duty social life.
If you have a fitness center at work, use it. "If they have a staff, tell them your goals and how much time you have so they can create a program for you," says lifestyle interventionist Meghan Oefinger.
Keep gym shoes at work so you can take a brisk walking break. Walk up and down stairs, around your building or parking lot. The fresh air provides a mental break, too.
Schedule. Walk or run with colleagues several times a week. If it's not scheduled, it won't happen.
Set priorities for yourself. If you work 60-plus hours and workout time seems impossible to create, says Oefinger, you need to honestly ask yourself how important your health is. Then, you may need to wake up earlier or stop at a gym before you get home. Consider commuting to work by bike or walking, or getting off the train or bus a few stops early to get in 10 to 30 minutes of brisk walking.
If you travel for work, use the hotel gym. Try 10 minutes of cardio, 10 minutes of strength, 10 minutes of stretching. Or, walk to your city's destinations rather than relying on cabs. It's also a great way to see the city you're visiting.
Can't leave your desk? Do a circuit workout at your desk/cubicle area, suggests Greg Chertok, a sports psychology consultant and personal trainer based in Englewood, N.J., and spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine. Do one set of pushups, 20 full body squats, 20 lunges each leg, tricep dips using your desk or chair, and one minute of stomach muscle contractions. "If you do that a few times during the day, it'll add up."
Get active with your family/kids. When Altena goes for a run, his two boys ride their bikes beside him. Put your kids in a jog stroller for a 30-minute run. Go for family walks before or after dinner. Stuck inside? Give each family member a jump rope and see who can jump the most during commercial breaks on TV. Do the same with pushups or sit-ups. "Kids love having goals, and this introduces kids to associate physical activity with fun rather than punishment," says Chertok. Get outside and play ultimate Frisbee or catch. "Create the habit," says Oefinger, who says walking with family is a great way to bond.
Create a workout circuit at home. No equipment is needed, says Chertok. Crank up the music and do one minute (30 seconds for beginners) each of lunges, planks, squat jumps, pushups and sit-ups (for example) with 30 seconds' rest between each activity. Repeat the five activities for up to 30 minutes. Increase intensity/time of each activity as you get more fit.
Only have 10 minutes at a time? Try this routine, says Gregory Florez, spokesman for the American Council on Exercise and CEO of Fit Advisor Executive Health Coaching Services:
First thing in the morning: 10 minutes of walking, elliptical or other aerobic activity you have access to.
Lunch/midafternoon: Perfect time for strength work or breathing/stretching routine.
End of day: More strength training and stretching, to wind down the day.
"If you do this three to five times a week and keep up the intensity, you'll absolutely see changes in the body," says Florez.
Swap it out. Switch out a TV show for an exercise DVD, says Oefinger. "Most people don't realize how much time they're spending in front of the television. Plus DVDs can be really motivating." Working out in front of the TV can also eliminate boredom eating, which is common at night.
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