When life is too busy to exercise.

notebook with apple, water bottle, running shoes, phone, and back pack

Not enough time to work out? Here’s what to do when you feel too busy to exercise.

We’ve all been there. Life is full of chaos, your to-do list is a mile long, and if there’s one thing you can eliminate to not feel so overwhelmed, it’s probably going to be the thing you don’t even want to do anyway.
So we erase exercise from our list, and move forward, but… life doesn’t seem to get any easier. You’re still worn out, you’re still overwhelmed, and on top of all that, now you feel unhealthy. How can you make exercise a priority when you’re too tired to make dinner?

Taking time to exercise will give back energy.

We know it’s stating the obvious here, but: exercise makes you stronger. And while you may usually think of strength as something which lets you accomplish extraordinary tasks, being more physically fit makes it easier to go about your normal routine as well.

Your body only builds enough muscle to do the things you make it do. So if you don’t exercise, you only have the strength to go about your daily life—and your daily life will use up all of your strength. When you exercise, you push your body to a new limit. Meaning that it is now capable of handling your day-to-day activities, with energy to spare.

And once your body adjusts to a certain amount of exercise, you’ll feel compelled to burn off that spare energy at the end of the day. That will motivate you not only to do the tasks which you felt too tired to accomplish earlier, but also make your exercise habit easier to maintain.

Start small: move your body, even if it’s not a full work out.

Jumping straight into a full-scale exercise routine can be intimidating. So don’t overdo it. If you’re coming from a particularly sedentary lifestyle, start by finding ways to be more active during the day. Go for walks, or take time to go through a light stretching routine when you first wake up. Just 15–30 minutes of exercise in the morning can help jumpstart your metabolism and make a huge difference in your overall health.

Make sure you stretch during the day, regardless of lifestyle or job. If you work at a desk, stand up and walk around every hour or so—even if it’s just to get a drink of water. And if you work on your feet, be sure to stretch a little during your shift. Staying limber will help prevent muscle soreness after a long day on the job. And taking time to loosen your neck, shoulders, arms, and fingers will reduce your risk of developing a repetitive strain injury.

Exercise doesn’t need to be in the gym.

If you hate the idea of paying for a gym membership just so you can feel awkward running on a treadmill, join the club. Some of us enjoy gym time, but for many others, the drive, the fees, and the very act of exercising in front of strangers is one of the greatest deterrents.

So instead of running on a treadmill at the gym, think of other ways to train your body. The Ann Arbor YMCA has affordable rates and a beautiful facility, including a pool for lap swim. Or you could sign up for a class in an activity which you would enjoy: think yoga, dance, or martial arts. Learning a new skill will give you a sense of accomplishment, and your classmates will add a level of social accountability which will encourage you to come back. If you don’t have time to get out, try doing yoga, calisthenics, or maybe even a little zumba in your home – YouTube anyone?! Our you can make the experience even more enjoyable by listening to an audiobook while you’re at it!

Not exercising is not an option.

Exercise is intrinsic to good health: there’s no way around it. If your life has become so full between work, school, family, and social obligations that you no longer have time to work out, it’s time to reprioritize. Without some amount of exercise time, you are going to burn out. And that will sabotage all those things that are currently taking up all your time.

Fortunately, there are some things in life which seem to take time, but which actually pay off. Exercise is one of them. Not only does it give you an endorphin boost, but it improves the circulation of blood through your body, which brings more oxygen to your brain. And, of course, it gives you more energy overall. So the endorphins make you happier, the oxygen helps you think, and the workout gives you energy—all of which help you go about your life more efficiently. It’s almost as if your body was built for this kind of activity!

Iris Proctor
Iris is the director of ArborWoman.