See if the following sounds familiar…
You’re up at 5am to check emails on your phone. You wake up the kids, make breakfasts and lunches, and get them off to school. After that it’s into the car for the commute to work—an 8+ hour day. You haul yourself home, pick up the kids. Next is dinner, homework, baths… The to do list goes on and on.
Eventually you crash somewhere around 10 or 11 pm to wake up and do it all over again the next day.
If this scheduled sounds anything like you, exercise is probably the last thing on your mind. Sure, you’d like to get fit. But you’re going from morning till night. Who has the time or the energy to work out?
If fitness has taken a backseat to other responsibilities in your life, let me tell you you’re not alone. Lack of time is the number one reason people cite for not getting enough exercise.[i]
But here’s the irony… Working out as little as 15 minutes, 3 times a week is likely to help you feel better about yourself, accomplish more, feel more energized and experience less burn out.[ii] Some of these exercises can even be done at your desk while you’re accomplishing other tasks!
Getting smart about exercise (and nutrition) will allow you to integrate small, high-impact changes that will revolutionize your lifestyle and have you feeling younger and more energetic than you have in decades.
That’s why today I’m going to reveal 17 fitness secrets that will help you stay fit even if you’re super busy. They fall into 3 categories:
- Smart exercise
- Quick diet and nutrition tips
- High impact, but small lifestyle changes
Let’s talk about smart exercise first . . .
5 Smart Exercise Tips
You don’t have to spend countless hours in the gym to be fit. Here are some ways you can get regular and effective exercise even if you don’t have a gym membership.
- Minimum effort, maximum reward.
Choose exercise routines that deliver the greatest amount of intensity and maximize the benefits you get given your limited time frame. Circuit training is one of the most popular ways of sweating it out in under thirty minutes. It works by providing a series of intense exercises that you have to do with minimal resting periods in between, effectively raising your heart rate and strengthening your muscles[iii].
Pro Tip: Pair two exercises that you can do at the same time – for example, an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise, or a pulling motion with a pushing motion[iv].
- Find a workout buddy.
Having a workout buddy gives you that extra boost of motivation. You’re more likely to stick with your exercise schedule if you’ve committed to workout with someone.[v]
But what if you can’t find anyone to exercise with? Fret not. Try these instead:
- Join the kids as they run around and play in the backyard.
- Take your dog for a walk and play Frisbee or catch while you’re at it.
No matter how hard you try to hit the gym regularly, there will be some days when you simply won’t have enough time to work out. Why not bring the gym to work?
Yes it may feel and look silly at first, but sneaking in a workout at your desk works well and takes almost no time at all. Try some stapler curls, shoulder shrugs, and crunches when you get some downtime at the office.
Try sitting on a stability or exercise ball instead of a regular office chair to increase your core strength. Keep a pair of dumbbells handy so you can do twelve to fifteen quick reps of overhead presses, dumbbell curls, and ab crunches during your breaks.[vi]
3. Walk it out.
Whether you’re at work or in school, chances are you will be sitting at a desk for a big part of your day. Add to that sitting down for dinner, driving, or commuting to and from home, and that leaves you in a stationary position for almost seventy percent of the day[vii]. Sneak in some movement whenever you can by running errands on foot, parking farther away from your building or getting off the train or bus a few stops before yours.
You can also take the stairs instead of the elevator and power up by increasing your speed and the number of steps you climb in one minute. If you can do so safely, take two or more steps at a time to really target your gluts and maximize your exercise.[viii]
Ever heard of NEAT? It’s short for non-exercise activity thermogenesis[ix] which is really just any type of movement you can do that isn’t considered as formal exercise. Little exercises here and there that you do as you go about your day can add up to make a big difference in your overall fitness and health.
We generally don’t recommend multi-tasking but this is one exception.
You’re trying to get in some exercise in spite of your already hectic schedule. Do routines that target multiple parts of your body instead of just one specific area. If you’re especially interested in cardio activities, try swimming a few laps to get an instant full-body workout. You can also use a jump rope or experiment with push-up variations, kettlebells, and burpees.
If you have ten minutes to spare, try using a treadmill to brisk walk while holding a pair of dumbbells. Do continuous one-minute sets of front laterals, side laterals, tricep extensions, bicep curls, standing tricep kickbacks, and shoulder presses. Aside from toning your upper body, you also get in some exercise for your legs and get your heart rate pumping.[x]
4. Set your alarm early.
Getting your daily exercise right when you wake up is great, because it means you can cross it off your to-do list early on and you do not worry about it for the rest of the day. Though it’s not advisable to miss out on sleep just to burn off some calories, you can still take some extra measures to adjust your sleep cycle and wake up early enough for a morning workout[xi].
5. Dress for success.
If you’re having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, going to sleep in your workout gear can motivate you to get up and get moving. Instead of having to get dressed after dragging yourself out of bed, you can just hop out the door and be on your way.[xii]
There’s just one small caveat. Your sleep may suffer if your exercise clothes are not comfortable for sleeping.
5 Quick Diet and Nutrition Tips
Exercising regularly doesn’t guarantee fitness. You also have to watch the amount and quality of the food you eat. Here are some quick diet and nutrition tips that complement the tips above:
- Plan ahead.
No matter how determined you may be to keep fit and healthy, sometimes the allure of processed, pre-packaged food and take-out menus can put all your hard work to waste, especially on an exceptionally busy night. Avoid food high in sodium and fat content, as well as other traps that can sabotage your fitness plan, by preparing your meals ahead of time. Taking some time during your weekends to create a menu and shopping list for the upcoming week can really make a lot of difference in your attempts to eat healthy.
Planning a week’s worth of healthy, guilt-free lunches is not only quick and easy, but also makes a world of difference to your health. Your leftovers from dinner can just as easily be your lunch for the next day, saving you the time and trouble of preparing an entirely new meal or buying one from the store. Additionally, pre-packing each meal into well-portioned single servings at the start of each week can not only save you lots of time throughout the week, but also helps you take control of your calorie and food intake. Once you have the ingredients for a healthy meal available in your own kitchen, it becomes a lot easier to pack a nutritious lunch every day[xiii].
- Get creative with the microwave.
Your microwave isn’t just good for heating up leftovers and TV dinners; this handy tool can help you prepare quick, easy, and delicious meals that won’t be a burden on your road to fitness. You can make cinnamon breakfast quinoa, one-minute quiche in a mug, and even a salmon dinner without having to go through a lot of difficult and time-consuming preparations. You can even heat nutritious and filling soups and stews and enjoy them without worrying about packing on more pounds. It’s all about getting creative with your food choices and mixing and matching healthy ingredients for your meals[xiv].
- Ditch your snacks and eat full meals instead.
A hectic schedule packed with activities can make it difficult and even impossible to sit down and enjoy a proper meal. Instead, it seems much easier to just grab whatever you can as you go. However, the seemingly harmless snacks you may find yourself consuming as you go about your day may not be doing you any good. You may not think you’re eating a lot, but your calorie intake may actually be higher if you snack often rather than sitting down for a full meal. On top of that, your health may be compromised because the items you snack on may not be very nutritious. Instead of buzzing through your day without filling your stomach, try preparing some full meals that are not only delicious and nutritious, but also quick and easy both to prepare and to eat[xv].
- Stay hydrated.
Getting your eight glasses of water daily is a great way to keep yourself energized and extra focused throughout your day. Drinking water regularly can also prevent you from feeling hungry more often and help you refrain from snacking too much, effectively keeping your weight in check. As an added bonus, water can prevent you from catching colds more easily and can even help you cure hangovers or avoid them completely. To remind yourself to drink up regularly, keep a water bottle handy at all times. Put one on your desk at work, or one in your bag for when you’re on the go. You can even set regular alarms on your phone as an extra reminder.[xvi]
- Keep track of your calorie intake.
Keeping a food journal to keep track of your diet can help you calculate your daily food and calorie intake. A regular paper-and-pen journal will work just fine, but updating it faithfully may be time-consuming, not to mention inconvenient when it comes to doing the math. If you are not dedicated enough to fill in your journal, hundreds of calories that you consume may go unaccounted for, destroying your diet plan.
Instead, try a free online weight-loss journal that is not only easier and more convenient to use, but can also help keep track of your exercise regimen, fitness goals, and progress, making your food journaling process simpler as a whole. Keeping an online tracker can also help you control your portion sizes so you don’t end up eating too much or too little.
5 Small but High Impact Lifestyle Tweaks
- Reduce your stress levels.
It’s insane how much stress can make an impact on your overall heath. Addressing high stress levels can be one way of keeping yourself healthy and fit, so instead of turning to unhealthy activities, take the time to do some stress-relieving outlets to make yourself feel better. A few deep breathing, stretching, and meditation exercises can do wonders in keeping your stress levels down. You can also sip on green tea and take a whiff of lavender for an instant calming effect. Taking a leisurely stroll in the park or around your block to take a mental break from work is another great way of keeping stress levels at bay.
- Get enough sleep.
No matter how hectic your schedule can get, it is important that you get enough sleep every night so your body and mind can get the proper amount of rest that they deserve. Aside from giving you the energy you need to power through your busy day, getting enough sleep can also help you function more quickly and efficiently, keeping you alert and enthusiastic to work on what you have to. Sleeping at the right hours also keeps you from getting tired and losing strength more quickly, which can sometimes push you to compromise by reaching for unhealthy snacks that will only sabotage your diet and attempt at being healthy.
- Use a phone app to record your daily activities.
There are lots of great apps like My Fitness Pal that you can use to keep a daily record of not only your diet, but your exercise routine, as well. My Fitness Pal allows you to set your fitness goals, and then keeps track of how far you are from achieving them based on your recorded progress. Apps like this work well in giving you that extra boost of motivation to work towards a healthier and happier you. What’s great is that they do not just give you a vague idea of your progress but report back specific numbers and figures so you can really assess how far you are getting.
- Set checkpoints for yourself.
Be sure to have a set of goals that you plan to attain throughout your fitness journey. Be it reaching a certain weight, fitting into a pair of jeans, or just liking what you see in the mirror, working towards something will help you stay on track and keep you motivated to continue your fitness regime, both through your diet and your exercise.
Test your strength and muscle power to assess whether your workouts are producing their desired effect. This objective self-evaluation can give you great feedback and go a long way in helping you adjust your program and make certain changes so that you can reach your end goal more quickly. For instance, if you’re experiencing a very rapid decrease in fat, this could mean that you’re losing some of your muscle volume, as well. If you find that you’re losing strength, this may be indicative of a deficit in your calorie intake, or it could mean that you’re not lifting enough weights in your workout routine[xvii].
- Get yourself a fitness buddy.
Having someone who can keep you in check can be a huge help in achieving your fitness goals. This person may not be the same as your workout buddy. Some people even hire professional trainers to keep them motivated and make sure they don’t deviate from their routine. You’ll feel more accountable for your actions and think twice before you reach for unhealthy snacks or opt to skip a day of exercise.[xviii]
Having a busy schedule is no longer an excuse when it comes to staying fit and healthy. All it takes is a little effort to make a few changes in the way you eat and live, and pretty soon, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a healthier version of you.
Our Nutritionist, Julie Haugen, has the following advice for those who really want a good work-out:
I recently joined a new fitness organization in January that is a national franchise gym, called Orangetheory Fitness. They are popping up in cities around the country and they have scheduled fitness classes with a trainer that last an hour which focus on cardio and strength training. They vary the exercises in each class so different muscle groups are worked and you get a full body workout that improves your body’s ability to burn calories better over a 24-36 hour period after the work out, so they are great for weight loss or weight management. The classes are challenging, but anyone who is reasonably healthy can do them. All classes are done wearing their special Orangetheory heart monitor so you can see your progress on a live screen in the workout room during the class, then see your stat’s after the class is over. It is a little bit of a cost & time commitment, but well worth it for those who seriously want to get into shape! I like it because you can get it all done in one hour a couple times a week!
[ii] Preventing Burnout: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Coping Strategies, Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Robert Segal, M.A. HelpGuide.org, Last Updated: February 2015, Retrieved April 10, 2015.
[iv] But I Work Around the Clock! Fitness for a Busy Life, SoheeFit, Retrieved April 10, 2015.
[xi] Why Exercising at This Time of Day is Far Better than Any Other Time, mercola.com, Published January 04, 2011, Retrieved April 10, 2015.
[xiii] Healthy Eating: Easy Tips for Planning a Healthy Diet and Sticking to It, Lawrence Robinson, Maya W. Paul, M.A. and Jeanne Segal Ph.D. HelpGuide.org, Last updated: March 2015, Retrieved April 10, 2015.
[xv] Snack attack: ‘Grazing’ used to be king, but now experts say it slows metabolism, and can cause tooth decay and diabetes, Simone Cave, Daily Mail Online, Published June 29, 2010, Retrieved April 10, 2015.