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You might not think there’s time to fit exercise into your busy schedule, but you can keep up with everything you have going on and still make time for fitness. In fact, doing so will boost your energy and mood! Here are easy-and fun-tips.
There are lots of creative ways to incorporate exercise into activities you already do. Think about all the time you spend with your body pretty much idle: while watching TV, waiting for your oatmeal to cook, or catching up on Facebook.
“The biggest issue is that students feel they have to go to the gym. This is not true,” says Dr. Amy Bidwell, a health science professor at State University of New York at Oswego. “It’s actually healthier to just get up and move as much as possible, instead of going to the gym for an hour and then sitting [the rest of the] day.”
So, here are some ideas for multitasking:
Obviously you don’t want to leave the stove unattended or dance with a knife in your hand, but you can still use time in the kitchen to your body’s advantage, and not just by preparing healthy meals. Here are some scenarios:
Activity: Watching the microwave plate spin.
Exercise: As the time counts down, spend 10 seconds stretching each part of your body.
Activity: Boiling water.
Exercise: Grab some canned food to use as barbells. Or place your fingertips on the counter and do ankle raises, engaging your calf, abdominal, and gluteal muscles.
Activity: Stirring pasta and sauce.
Exercise: Turn up your favorite song and use the spoon as your microphone. Dance like it’s your job.
Activity: Steaming vegetables.
Exercise: Perform squats and lunges, checking the veggies every minute or so.
Instead of just lounging on the couch, watch TV with an exercise twist. This is especially fun with friends. The point is to find a way to make moving a game, using some element of what you’re watching. For example, you can pick a word and do a specific exercise every time a character says that word, and choose a few so that more people are moving at the same time. As Claire H., a sophomore at Montgomery College in Maryland, says, “This will probably add laughter, another very beneficial activity!”
Activity: Watching a romantic comedy.
Exercise: Every time characters kiss, do 10 jumping jacks.
Activity: Watching an action film or your favorite sport.
Exercise: Each time someone is running or doing something daring, do high-knees.
Activity: Catching up on sitcoms.
Exercise: See who can do the most sit-ups or push-ups during commercial breaks.
Cady K., a senior at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, shares, “I make up routines when I’m watching shows. Even walking in place or jogging feels better than sitting.”
Many game consoles offer fitness programs and exercise games. Your school may have machines you can borrow through the student activities or residential life office, or the fitness center might have one or two.
Don’t forget fitness DVDs, finding workouts online, or getting a group of friends together for a dance party!
Work With What You’ve Got
No weights? No problem. According to Dr. Bidwell, your body weight is a great tool in and of itself.
Lunges, squats, and push-ups are easy to do anywhere and can be done while you listen to music or take a break from studying. “Keep going until you cannot go anymore. Body-weight [exercise] to exhaustion is fine with minimal rest between sets,” says Dr. Bidwell.
Amanda A., a sophomore at State University of New York at Oswego, has a few go-to exercises she does at home. She explains, “For workouts in a dorm room, I think wall sits, crunches, and plank variations are best.”
Blake E., a senior at the University at Buffalo in New York, is a self-described health enthusiast who likes lunges, push-ups, and sit-ups. Margaret K., a sophomore at the University of South Carolina, says, “Get up [as a break] when writing a long paper or studying. It keeps your mind fresh.”
Another idea is a variation of CrossFit™, a popular, high-intensity training program where participants do as many repetitions as they can of an exercise, in a short time period. Karl M., a recent graduate of State University of New York at Oswego, made up his own version to do at home. He says, “Set up a stopwatch. Do squats or lunges until it hits 20 seconds, rest until it hits 30 seconds, then keep on repeating.”
Supplies at Your Fingertips
Vicki B., a sophomore at The Alamo Colleges in San Antonio, Texas, says, “If you use what you have around, you’ll find that it can work just as well.” There are lots of household items that make great exercise props. Here are some ideas:
- Cans of soup and full water bottles are handy as barbells.
- Fill empty bottles with spare change for heavier versions.
- A gallon of milk (preferably never opened) or a carton of laundry detergent can stand in for a medicine ball.
- Full laundry bags can substitute for a foam roller.
- A backpack full of books makes for a great weight.
- No yoga mat? Lay out a thick towel.
- Use the back of a chair for support when doing balance exercises.
- Engage your core by trying to balance on a soccer or basketball.
- Use your (cleared) kitchen counter as a ballet barre. Just make sure to clean it afterward.
As Dr. Bidwell says, “As long as you get up and move, you will reap the benefits [you would with] structured exercise.” Making physical activity a fun part of your everyday routine will make it easier to reach your fitness goals.
Ideas for using your surroundings to stay active
Use Your EnvironmentTo add more physical activity to your day, modify your usual routine just a bit.
In a recent Student Health 101 survey, almost 40 percent of respondents said they use time between classes to run stairs, speed walk, or do other activities using their surroundings.
Anna C., a senior at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, says, “A pedometer is great because it’s a way to track your activity and set goals.”
Here are more ideas:
- Taking a bathroom break? Choose one on a different floor and run up and down the stairs a few times before and afterward.
- Do ankle-circles or tighten and release your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles while sitting in class.
- Park your car or bike in a distant spot and speed-walk to your destination.
- Take the long way home (during daylight). In wet or cold weather, walk through buildings and take some extra stairs. Margaret K., a sophomore at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, says, “This is what I do to stay fit. Most campuses are really pretty, so it’s fun to explore them by walking around!”
- Get cardiovascular exercise by speed-walking to class or running stairs.
- Use body-weight exercises for strength-training at home.
- Find household supplies to use as fitness props.
- When watching TV, play a fitness game that uses cues from the show or movie.
- Add movement into everyday activities like cooking.
- Get your friends involved to make exercising fun.
Get help or find out more
President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, Ways to Be Active: Add Extra Steps to Your Day
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, How much physical activity do adults need?
North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University Cooperative Extension, Adding Steps to Your Day: Simple Ways to Stay Active