There are two types of people: those who like to exercise and those who do not. If you have read some of my other blogs about running and my recent quadriceps tendon surgery, you know that I not only like to exercise, I am a fanatic. Well, a reformed fanatic these days-I finally accepted the fact that I’m no longer an indestructible running machine. This blog is for the folks who are not crazy like me, the folks who think they really should get around to doing some exercise, but have a hard time getting started and sticking with it.
Most people talk about getting into shape and some even try to start exercising. But, it can be tough. Exercise takes time and it is, for most people, painful and unpleasant. So, the main challenge in sticking with exercise is overcoming those two main hurdles: time and pain. I’ll focus on time in this blog.
In addition to my (reformed) fanaticism, I am also lucky to have a job that allows me to fit in exercise quite easily. While I tend to work 50-60 hours a week, only 20 of those hours are fixed (12 hours of class and 8 hours in my office). So, I can easily fit in exercise. Most people don’t have such a flexible schedule. I’m also divorced and don’t have kids, so that also gives me a great deal of time that married folks and folks with kids lack. But what if you don’t have such a flexible schedule? What if your week is packed with things that are keeping you busy? What can you do? Here are some ideas.
Television is, in many ways, the bane of the body and the mind. It is so very easy to plop down with a bag of Cheetos and watch one reality TV show after another. Not surprisingly, people who tell me that they can’t find any time to exercise often have well used remote controls that are coated with Cheeto dust. While TV is thus often seen as the enemy of fitness, you can make it your fitness friend. While there are all sorts of fitness videos that you can watch, these would obviously interfere with your usual TV patterns. What works best is using the time you already have set aside for TV as exercise time as well.
The trick is to find an exercise that you can do while watching TV. Naturally, it has to be something that allows you to watch the shows while also providing exercise. Since people sit while watching TV, the most obvious exercise is to ride an exercise bike. These bikes are fairly inexpensive (although you can blow a fortune on gym grade equipment) and provide a reasonable amount of exercise. A treadmill is also a good choice, although a good one is more expensive than a decent bike.
The downside to exercising while watching TV is that most people find it difficult to keep up their workout intensity while watching TV. However, even lower effort exercise is better than no exercise.
While some jobs provide plenty of opportunity for physical activity, most do not. For example, if you work 9-5 in sales, your main activity will probably be walking around the store. While working out seriously and building up a sweat is not an option at most work places, there are opportunities for exercise. Some of these are the obvious ones: take the stairs rather than the elevator and walk around at every legitimate opportunity. Some of these are less obvious. For example, there are some limited exercises that can be done while sitting down at work. These are mostly isometric exercises. If you have a lunch hour, you can get your lunch to go and go for a walk.
Getting to and from work also provides the opportunity for exercise. If you live close enough to work, then walking or biking can be a good option. In addition to saving you money, it will also improve your health. Of course, most people live too far from work to do this and most American cities tend to be very dangerous for biking. When I moved to Tallahassee, I thought I’d be able to bike to work year round. But, after several near death experiences (we did get bike lanes a while ago, but drivers use them as extra road space and a place to dispose of glass bottles) I finally gave up. Weather is, of course, also a factor. But, if you live in a bike and pedestrian friendly place, this is an excellent option.
These day, many recreational activities provide little or no exercise. For example, playing video games or watching a movie do not do much for fitness. People do, of course, set aside time for entertainment. One way to work in exercise is to replace passive activities with more active activities. For example, rather than having the kids play a skating video game while the adults watch sports on TV, the family could go for a bike ride, play tennis, or do some other activity that is truly active. If someone has time to play video games for hours, then they have the time to exercise. Yes, there are video games that purport to provide exercise opportunities. These are, of course, better than nothing. However, they are not better than doing real activities. While I do like video games, it always struck me as really odd that people would play games that involve things like skateboarding, soccer, running, or basketball when they could go and do these activities for real-thus having fun and also getting some exercise.