How to find an extra hour in your day

Kimberly Gillan
Friday, November 16, 2012

Think your calendar's too full to fit in a workout? Here's how to free up time to prioritise your health.

Don't wait for the right time

Forget blaming your lack of spare time for not exercising, scheduling it into your diary will amplify your chances of success.

"There's not many people who can exercise when they feel like it, except for retired people," says exercise physiologist Professor Steve Selig from Exercise and Sports Science Australia. "People who say they don't have time to exercise usually have not set up their lifestyles adequately to make exercise a high enough priority."

Setting your alarm for an early morning session is one great option. "People who exercise in the morning don't have their email going off or work calling them," Professor Selig points out.

"It means you've ticked the exercise box before you start your day."

Look to our leaders

Still certain you don't have time for exercise? Just take a look at Coalition leader Tony Abbott and former Prime Minister John Howard.

"Can you possibly tell me how they have more time than the average person?" Professor Selig says.

"They have placed health and wellbeing higher on their priority list. And if someone like that can, then anyone can."

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Care for #1

Whether you're responding to your bosses demands or arranging your life around your family's timetable, it's easy to get caught up taking care of everyone else.

"Women seem to do this more-so than men — we make excuses," says psychologist Nadine Hamilton from Positive Psych Solutions.

"But it's important that we take time for ourselves to do things that align with our values, otherwise we can feel resentful or stressed. That might mean putting it in the calendar so the whole family knows that at 5pm on a Tuesday you are going for a walk."

Multi-task when you move

Whether it's having walking meetings with your colleagues at work or catching up with a friend for a walk or jog in the evening, combining exercise with other activities is a great way to schedule it into your day.

"Time management is important," Hamilton says.

"Lots of people make time to sit on the couch or go out for dinner with friends, so find ways to utilise that time for exercise."

Break it down into small chunks

The Australian government recommends we do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week. The good news is — that doesn't have to occur in half hour blocks.

So if you walk 10 minutes to and from the bus stop and walk up the stairs at work for five minutes twice daily, you've clocked your 30 minutes without having to change your routine.

"It doesn't have to be organised exercise, it can be 'disorganised exercise'," Professor Selig explains.

Focus on the feel-good factor

Rather than forcing yourself to exercise to lose weight, focus on how healthy you'll feel after a session.

"When we feel like we have to do something, like 'I have to exercise because I have to be slim', you can feel a sense of resentment," Hamilton says.

"But if it's part of our values — the things that are important to us — and we choose to do it, it changes the mindset and we get a sense of wellbeing."

It's also worth reminding yourself you'll get a hit of feel-good endorphins after the workout that will blitz any bad mood.

"There was some research that said that people with mild to moderate depression, brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, six times a week for six weeks was having the same effect as antidepressant medication," Hamilton says.

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