Everyone knows that exercise is good for us. Just how good for us, however, can be quite staggering. Most people are aware that exercise makes us healthier, decreasing our odds of suffering from physical or mental illness. But exercise also reduces stress and anxiety, boosts our brain power and sharpens our memory, increases our creativity and productivity, and raises our self-confidence and happiness levels.
So why don’t we do more of it? Fully 80% of us fail to meet the NHS exercise guidelines (150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week, as well as at least two sessions of strength exercises). 1 in 10 of us can’t even manage to walk continuously for more than five minutes each month.
A common excuse is that exercise is simply too hard to fit into our increasingly busy lives. After all, if we only have a certain amount of leisure time, why wouldn’t we choose to spend it with our friends and family rather than sweating at the gym?
It’s a fair point, but the solution is simple: combine exercise with other leisure activities, and get the best of both worlds.
4 Ways to Fit More Exercise Into Your (Already Busy) Life
1. Exercise + Learning
Have a look at a treadmill or cross-trainer, and you’ll often find a little shelf on the machine perfect for a book, tablet or e-reader. Reading is a great way to make those long, slow cardio sessions fly by because when your brain is concentrating on a story, it forgets the pain in your legs!
Of course, reading text isn’t practical if you’re moving fast or in lots of different directions, but that’s where audio books, podcasts, and TV shows come in. In general, it’s a good idea to pick something that you know you’ll enjoy in order to avoid losing the engagement effect, but if you’re a particularly high achiever there’s no reason you couldn’t use this technique to pick up a new skill like learning a language.
Restricting a pleasurable activity – like reading the next chapter of a great book or watching the next installment of your favorite TV show – to exercising days doesn’t just make working out seem less arduous – it means you’ll soon start looking forward to it!
2. Exercise + Socializing
Spending time with loved ones is important. Luckily, chances are they need to exercise more too, giving you the perfect excuse to rope them into a joint activity. Find a class, sport or activity you all enjoy, and you’ll be making exercise time quality socializing time too. Another great option? Sign up for a fun run. With options from running in Sumo Suits to having paint blasted at you, it’s guaranteed giggles with a built-in support team. You can even raise money for a cause close to your hearts.
Exercising is also a great way to expand your social life. After all, team sports require a team! Join up to your local club or class and you’ll undoubtedly meet loads of great new people. Who knows? Your new BFF could be waiting for you in spin class.
Think holidays are just about lying on a beach? Think again. Activity holidays come in so many shapes and sizes that you’re sure to find one that suits you. Perhaps you’ll want to go to a yoga retreat in India, try windsurfing in the Caribbean or hike up to Everest Base Camp. Whatever you choose, you’re sure to challenge yourself, impress your friends and bring home some incredible stories. Even if you’re not ready to commit to a full activity holiday yet, at least try to add a bit of beach volleyball in with your tanning!
Weekends and mini-breaks are also perfect times to get out and get active. From a gentle hike around the Lake District to a cycle through Amsterdam, the possibilities are endless.
4. Exercise + Working
Working and exercising might sound like the single worst thing ever, but they can go together in a way that doesn’t leave you sobbing into your pillow. First up: your commute. For many of us, walking or cycling in is a real possibility. Contrary to popular wisdom, exercising gives us more energy, so getting active on your commute could get you set up for the work day.
Team nights and retreats can also be an excuse for getting moving. While you might struggle to get the team buy-in on the local marathon, activities such as a fun and fast-paced escape room should put a smile on everyone’s face. Similarly, setting up a workplace football team (or any other sport you fancy) is a great way to get colleagues to bond while exercising.
Exercise can also bolster your CV. Those charity fun runs make you seem conscientious, the team captainship like a natural leader. And exercise with the ‘cool factor’ (think surf camp in Bali) can pique employer’s interests and help you stand out from the crowd.