How to Squeeze Thirty Minutes of Exercise into a Busy Day

As a fitness professional, a common complaint I hear from people is that they don't have enough time to exercise. They know they would feel better and perform better if they exercised but, try as they might to fit exercise into their tight schedules, they just can't. This is a valid complaint especially if the person has an eight-hour workday. Well, the good news is that there is a way to add exercise to a busy person's life without having to join a fitness center or without having to spend a large amount of time doing it.

In 1994, a joint recommendation between the American College of Sports Medicine and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was published stating that sedentary people could lower their risk for many chronic lifestyle illnesses by accumulating 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week.

The recommendation emphasized that the 30 minutes need not be continuous! In other words, a person could do one 30-minute walk, another person could do three 10-minute walks, and still another could do two 10-minute walks plus a total of 10 minutes of stair climbing spread throughout the day.

Why 30-minutes?
The 30-minute recommendation evolved from epidemiological studies. Epidemiology is the study of data collected from large groups of people over the course of many years. Epidemiologists record who develops which diseases, who dies of what and then they look at the factors or variables that may have caused the deaths such as activity level, smoking history, dietary habits and so forth.

The researchers found that people who accumulated 30-minutes worth of physical activity most days of their lives lived longer and had significant protection from chronic illnesses, such as artery disease, type II diabetes, hypertension, depression, and certain cancers. They also found that these 30-minutes increased their HDL cholesterol (the good kind of cholesterol) and lowered their risk of forming blood clots.

What kind of activities?
Any physical activity that is of moderate-intensity will do. Examples are walking, climbing stairs, gardening, housework, and calisthenic-type exercises, cycling, and dancing. Walking and climbing stairs are the most practical activities for someone who works in an office and sits at a desk the whole day because these activities can easily be done in an office setting.

What does moderate intensity mean?
Moderately intense means that you feel like you are working somewhat hard, but you are not overdoing it. You will feel like you are starting to breathe somewhat hard but you can still carry on a conversation.

Is anything over 30 minutes a waste of time?
Thirty minutes takes you out of the totally sedentary zone into the somewhat active zone where health benefits begin to increase. Of course you would benefit more if you could do an hour's worth of exercise a day but since that can be difficult to squeeze into a busy schedule, 30 minutes is much better than zero minutes! The ideal exercise program would be a combination of some kind of aerobic activity, some type of resistance training (lifting weights) and stretching. However, the ideal is not always possible so don't fall for the all-or-nothing attitude toward exercise. Any kind of physical activity will help to improve your appearance, increase your productivity, enhance your self-esteem and reduce your risk of health-related ailments.

Plan your 30-minutes.
If you are serious about wanting to add 30 minutes worth of exercise into your busy lifestyle, you need to make a plan. The best way to do this is to write down how you intend to accumulate those 30 minutes. Keep some sort of logbook to check whether you are really getting at least 30 minutes worth of physical activity a day. A sample logbook entry could look like this:

Mon 10 minutes of walking around the office at 7:30 a.m. / 10 minutes of stair climbing at 12:00 noon before eating lunch / 10 minutes of stair climbing at 3:00 p.m.
Tue 10 minutes of walking around the office at 7:30 a.m. / 20 minutes of mall-walking at 12:00 noon before lunch.
Wed 15 minutes of stair climbing at 7:30 a.m. / 15 minutes of mall-walking at 5:30 p.m.
Thu 10 minutes of walking around the office at 7:30 a.m. / 12 noon / 3:00 p.m.
Fri 15 minutes of walking around the office at 7:30 a.m. / 15 minutes of stair climbing at 12 noon.
Sat One hour of ballroom dancing at my neighbor's house at 9:00 p.m.
Sun 30 minutes of biking with the kids at 4:00 p.m.

Practical tips to accumulate 30 minutes.

With a little planning, imagination, and determination, these "30 magic minutes" can do wonders for your health, appearance, and sense of well being!

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