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8 Ways to Sneak Exercise into Your Daily Routine

What you can do even if you think you don't have enough time to exercise.

Key points

  • If you have to go out of your way to schedule exercise, you are much less likely to do it. It's the first thing that goes when you get busy.
  • It is wise to incorporate exercise into as many different daily routines as you can. That way exercise becomes a habit.
  • You can even work exercise into your work such as having standing or running meetings or beginning each meeting with an exercise session.
  • Ultimately, get to a point where you are exercising without even really knowing it—doing crunches even when in a crunch.
Source: Photo by Pixabay.
You can still find time to exercise, even if you are in a crunch.
Source: Photo by Pixabay.

When I was a freshman in college, I was talking to a classmate right outside a dormitory building when the doors burst open and a guy shot out of the building like a cannonball in a full sprint. When I asked my classmate why the guy was in such a hurry, my classmate responded, "Oh, no he's just going to lunch. He decided that he would go everywhere in a full sprint so that he could get exercise along the way."

That was indeed an interesting idea. Not to suggest that everyone should go everywhere in a full sprint: That might be tough for anyone carrying ice cream cones or going through a revolving door. But it does highlight a big reason why many people may not be getting enough exercise. For many, exercise has become a scheduled thing rather than something that is incorporated into everyone's daily routine activities.

Nowadays, the only way you may get exercise is if you go to (or perhaps drive to) the gym or some kind of class. This is not how humans were originally designed to get exercise. Cave people probably didn't say, "Hmmm, it looks like my gym membership expired" or "My Pilates class is scheduled at 4 pm." So many technological advances have occurred in order to get physical activity out of different daily activities. Did the inventors of the bicycle ever realize that someday people would be using bicycles that don't go anywhere in order to get exercise because they have stopped using real bicycles to go anywhere?

The trouble is if you have to go out of your way to schedule something, you are much less likely to do it. It's the first thing that goes when you get busy. Therefore, the best way to guarantee that you get exercise is to incorporate it into as many different things as you can. Here are eight ways:

1. Walk or bicycle to places instead of driving. You may say that you don't have time, but think about how much time you spend looking for parking, getting gas, and sitting in traffic

2. Take the stairs whenever possible. Unless you are injured, carrying a basket of bowling balls, or otherwise physically can't climb the stairs, there's no reason why you have to take the elevator just to go up or down a couple of stories.

3. Start every meeting with one minute of stretching and one minute of cardio. This is what my team does for each and every meeting. Doing so can have the dual benefit of clearing your head before the meeting, increasing productivity, and realizing what outfits do and don't work while doing burpees.

4. Have standing meetings or even jogging or cycling meetings. You can even turn the entire meeting into a standing (meaning body positioning-wise and scheduling-wise) or moving meeting. For example, whenever I've visited the Specialized headquarters, I've engaged in bicycle meetings where we would ride bicycles outdoors while talking about, well, bicycles.

Source: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.
There are many times when it's good to do a little dance.
Source: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.

5. Have sports socials instead of sedentary get-togethers. Whoever said that standing around in circles while holding drinks in your hands is the only way to socialize? Why not play tennis, volleyball, basketball, touch football, hopscotch, or anything else that can get your body moving? This way you have something to do when you run out of superficial things to say.

6. Walk or run while on the phone. Yes, you can do two things at once. Just make sure the other person on the call understands why you may be panting.

7. Do a little dance. You know the saying, "Dance like no one's watching?" Well, do it. Express yourself through dance. Dance when you are in the shower. When you hear good news. When you see some avocado toast.

8. Do whatever you are watching. What's the point of watching others on TV, the movies, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and other social media platforms move around when you are not doing so yourself? Instead, while watching others, try to mirror what they are doing at the same time.

Ultimately, you want to get to a point where you are exercising without even really knowing it. You are doing crunches even when you are in a crunch. You are getting your heart rate up even if you think your heart's not in it. You can get in a good run even on days when you have the...well, you get the picture.

More from Bruce Y. Lee M.D., M.B.A.
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More from Bruce Y. Lee M.D., M.B.A.
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