As I continue writing my No Excuses Fitness book, my goal on this blog is to post an article about fitness at least once a month.
Over 4 years ago I wrote an article about how much time we all need to dedicate to being physically active. This is an update to that post.
Did you know that there are 168 hours in a week? Go ahead, count them. Seems like a lot.
To briefly summarize, within this 168 hours, 40 hours are used for work, school or your vocation. This is for an average person. Sleeping uses up 56 hours in a week, which equals 8 hours per night, if we are lucky. What is left over is 72 hours a week for personal care which includes leisure time.
Your challenge is to find three hours a week for physical activity. Out of 168 hours in a week, three hours should be do-able. I created this info-graphic to show how the hours are broken down.
Can You Dedicate Three Hours a Week to Physical Activity?
Let’s tackle this step-by-step.
Step 1: Assess your health. Are you overweight? Are you unable to exercise due to a medical condition or disability? Do you simply need more motivation to be physically active?
Step 2: Identify barriers preventing you from exercising. Some of these barriers include geographical, environmental and structural.
Geographical barriers can be where you work in relation to where you live. Do you have a long commute to and from work? This can eat into your personal care time. Do you live in a part of the country with extreme weather conditions that may prevent you from simply walking outdoors? If your workplace does not have amenities like a gym or area for exercise, this can be a big deterrent to finding time for physical activity.
Environmental barriers include poor access to parks or other leisure spaces in your community. Perhaps there are very few places to safely ride a bicycle near where you live. If you live in an urban environment, walking may be a great exercise option, but that can be hampered by weather, crowds, events, and other deterrents.
Structural barriers to physical activity can be money, transportation, clothing and equipment, or even the skills to participate in an activity.
Lack of time is the ultimate structural barrier.
Step 3: Assess your interests. Simply put, what do you like to do? What were some fun activities you enjoyed as a young person? Are you interested in trying these activities again as an adult? Once you identify your interest, are there barriers getting in your way? This is where many folks talk themselves out of trying something new.
Step 4: Take action. Now that you have chosen your ideal fitness activity, let’s say “walking”, how will you do this? What time of day works best for you? Can you walk on your lunch break at work? Can you devote 30 minutes, 6 days a week (equals three hours) to walking? If not, how about one hour per day, three days per week? Thirty minutes per day is the minimum time for optimum cardiovascular fitness.
And yes, you can break up the 30 minutes into smaller increments during the day. Ten minutes is the minimum to feel the benefits of cardio. Other action steps include taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. While at work, walk the long way around to the break room or to a meeting. Even adding a few extra steps can add up to small increments that add to your fitness time.
For years, I worked on my university campus two days a week. For my night class, I purposely parked close to where the classroom is, so when I finished, I could walk safely to my car. But this meant I had to walk at least 10 minutes to get to the building where my office was located. From the parking lot to the office and back to the classroom was at least 20 minutes broken up into 10. I also walked the 4 flights up the stairs on days I was not lugging my rolling cart.
Step 5: Mix up your routine once you take action. Add a few more minutes to your current workout. Try cross-training. This can be as simple as trying a new exercise or activity. If you belong to a gym, try a spin class, Zumba, or boot camp. Adding a completely new and different type of workout exercises new muscles and can invigorate your fitness routine. If gyms are not your thing, check into your local recreation center for exercise or active leisure classes.
Now that I am in my 60s, I also recognize the value of strength training. Even just 20-30 minutes, two days a week of light weights can help strengthen your bones and muscles.
Step 6: Sustainability. Now that you have created an exercise routine, is it sustainable? If you get bored easily, examine why you are bored. For example, if you walk your dog through the same neighborhood day after day, it can get dull. Perhaps you can walk with a friend or walk in a different neighborhood.
I started walking weekly with a friend from the gym who was also my hairstylist. We walked for no less than one hour exploring nearby neighborhoods and she graciously walked with one of my two dogs.
Joining structured fitness classes with regular attendees and instructors can also be an incentive as it is motivating to see progress in one another.
If the weather is uncooperative, take a walk in the nearest shopping mall (leave your $ and credit cards at home). Perhaps your community has a walking club associated with the neighborhood recreation center. Exercising with others is a good way to stay accountable and not give up. Plus, it’s FUN!
And finally, take a good look at your time. How valuable is your health compared to the time you have left in the day? We easily get caught up in the hectic pace of life and allow our three hours of physical activity to be used up in other ways. Work and family obligations are tough to overcome.
Creating a simple daily schedule for your fitness time should be as high a priority as work and family. If you are unwell, you will not be able to work or take care of your family.
See more of what other folks are doing for their fitness and health!
In our busy world, I encourage you to use your time wisely and claim your three hours a week for physical activity!
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