Don’t let exercise be the first thing to fall off your busy schedule. Learn how to work in a workout―and make it really effective.
Exercise in quick spurts. A new study has found that people who did just four to six 30-second sprints reaped the same heart-health benefits as those who logged a moderate 40- to 60-minute workout. Two ways to get your heart racing: Jump rope for three minutes, or sprint to and from the mailbox three times (ignore the neighbors’ curious looks). If you live in an urban area, sprint blocks sporadically (just pretend you’re running for the bus).
Make your home a fitter place. To help you flex your muscles more often, leave a set of dumbbells near your microwave and do curls while heating up dinner. Put a yoga mat next to the bed so you can do downward dogs when you get up or at bedtime. Hang a resistance band on the bathroom doorknob and strength-train while the tub fills up. Or use a stability ball as a desk chair to engage your core when paying bills.
Inconvenience yourself. Instead of always doing things the easy or fast way (standing on escalators, using valet parking), rethink the services that curb your activity level. Even tiny changes can make a difference. So don’t have someone else run upstairs to grab your sweater, for example; fetch it yourself.
Put it in ink. You stick to the doctor’s appointments and work meetings that are on your calendar, so why not take the same approach to exercise sessions? Every Sunday night, schedule them into your weekly planner (or your PDA). To make sure your family members are on board, place the calendar in a common area so they can see it. That way, workout times become public declarations and nonnegotiable parts of your routine.
9. Be a coach. Find a youth league in your area and put your old athletic skills to good use. Running laps or teaching techniques will get your heart rate going. Plus, it’s a great strategy for those who find treadmills a slog. To find a team, check with your school district or the Positive Coaching Alliance .
Don’t let travel derail you. Instead of returning from vacation feeling flabby, plan a week filled with hiking, biking, walking, or an activity you’ll train for. Visit Gorp Travel (gorptravel.away.com) for ideas. Many hotel chains also have programs to help you. Most Westin Hotels and Resorts offer rooms that contain fitness equipment. And Hilton Garden Inns will give you a free Stay Fit Kit, which includes a Pilates band, a yoga mat, and hand weights.
Increase the beat. Listen to faster music and your feet will follow suit. And, says a new study, you may also exercise for up to 15 percent longer. Try BeatScanner, a free PC-compatible program at bestworkoutmusic.com that searches your music library for upbeat tunes. Or use the Yamaha BodiBeat, an MP3 player that adjusts the music to your pace.
Deskercise. To squeeze in a few moves at work, download Break Pal, a program that pops up on your monitor every 30 minutes with a three-minute routine . When the phone rings, take the call standing up to burn 10 percent more calories than you would chatting in a chair.
Enlist Fido. Exercising a dog will get your arms and legs pumping. (A Canadian study found that dog owners spend about 300 minutes a week doing canine-related physical activity.) No pooch? Help a neighbor or volunteer at an animal shelter.
Look at yourself. No, really. Put a mirror in front of the treadmill. Researchers have found that people who watch themselves while working out exercise faster with less effort. Eyeing yourself can make a new exercise routine feel easier.