Finding time for fitness

Little tweaks to your daily habits can squeeze more fitness into your busy schedule.

Exercise is beneficial for everyone, no matter when you decide to become more active.

By staying strong, you’re able to complete everyday activities with more ease and decreased stress levels.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and two or more days of muscle strengthening for older adults — every week.

However, if you have the responsibility of caring for someone else during your day, how can you possibly fit exercise into your already-busy schedule?

Adding small amounts of exercise into your day can be just as beneficial as one long session. One small — but important — step is to reduce the time you spend sitting each day.

Research has shown that sitting for long periods may be detrimental to our cardiovascular health. Break up those bouts of sitting by standing up, stretching your legs and walking around the room.

The simple act of standing improves posture and circulation, increases metabolism and tones muscles in the core and legs — a fact that’s boosted the popularity of standing desks in residential and commercial office settings.

But standing is just the beginning of finding time for fitness.

Try some of these creative ways to include fitness into your everyday life, even while you’re ticking other items off your to-do list.

On your own 

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Use good posture, standing tall with your shoulders back.
  • Do pushups against a counter while waiting for your food to heat in the microwave.
  • Stand up and walk around when you talk on the phone.
  • If you ride the bus, get off one stop early.
  • Nobody will know when you’re exercising your glutes. Just tighten those muscles, hold for two seconds, release and repeat.

While running errands

  • Park as far as possible from store entrances. You’ll walk more and your car will be easier to locate.
  • When shopping, go down every aisle, even when you don’t need anything, to add extra steps into your day.
  • Return your shopping cart to the front of the store instead of a nearby cart corral.
  • When you return home, bring in one bag at a time.

During caregiving

  • If you’re keeping someone company, do some squats, arm curls or core exercises.
  • Go for a walk together, either outside or at the mall. If your companion walks slowly, use that time to bring your knees up as high as you can with each step.
  • If your balance is good, walk backwards to engage different leg muscles.
  • Dance with one another. It’s good exercise and another way to connect.
  • Consider a pet. Families who own and walk a dog regularly spend an extra 22 minutes each day walking. Pets also often give unconditional love that can lift an entire household’s spirits.

These tips can help caregivers sneak exercise into their very busy schedules.

Keep in mind, however, the best trick for staying consistent with any fitness routine is to find something you enjoy doing, something that renews your soul with positive energy and strength.

When the mindset of fitness is perceived as something you have to do, then it will always remain on the bottom of your to-do list. Even small steps to add exercise into your day will provide stress release, increased mood and energy to make reaching 150 minutes every week easier.

Jenny West works at FamilyMeans in Caregiving & Aging Services. FamilyMeans  and is an active member of the Metropolitan Caregiver Service Collaborative.