I am passionate (and perhaps slightly fanatic!) about encouraging women to exercise as part of their daily lives. It's not that I'm training for a triathlon or getting ready to run a marathon (believe me, those things will never happen!). It's just that I've learned the power of regular physical activity in a woman's life, and I want other women to learn it too. I'm talking about the kind of power that leads to feeling better, looking better, maintaining a healthy weight, feeling sexier and managing stress more easily -- the exact things most busy women desperately need in their lives.
The problem, of course, is time. Most women take on too many tasks every day -- working, nurturing, teaching, coaching, transporting, shopping, cleaning -- the list goes on and on. They simply don't have time to exercise.
Is that what you believe? If so, I want to challenge you to examine your beliefs. Because I think you're wrong. You do have time to exercise -- to get up and move your body almost every day -- if you make it a priority. And if you can't, let me gently encourage you to take a hard look at your schedule and assess your priorities. Because you owe it to your body, mind, spirit and family to make exercise one of your priorities. You need it, and you deserve it.
But don't wait to start until you've figured all of that out. Here are 10 ways to make time for exercise -- even when you don't have time. Try one or two this week, and identify others that fit your schedule.
1. Walk while your children are at sports practices or other activities. Never sit on the bleachers at soccer, baseball, or football practice! Invite other parents to walk and make it a social activity. Or walk alone and use the time to think or just unwind. When your children have indoor activities, find a place to walk nearby, even if it's just around the block.
2. Get your family outside for some active fun two or three times a week. Play Frisbee, soccer, or catch with the kids. Ride bikes together around the neighborhood. Shoot hoops or hit a tennis ball around. On the weekends or when you have a little more time, take a hike or ride bikes on a trail. Or just get outside and enjoy nature.
3. Find several exercise programs you can do at home (online or DVD) and do one of them a couple of times a week. Keep shorter (15-20 minutes) and longer (30-40 minutes) programs on hand to fit the time you have available.
4. Take regular walks around your neighborhood. If your children are young, load them up in a stroller or wagon. If they're a little older, let them ride bikes while you walk. And if they're old enough to stay home alone, take a walk with your husband or a friend. Do it regularly, and it will become one of your favorite activities. My husband and I used to walk a circuit around our property and our neighbor's property every evening while our boys played outside. We just kept circling for about 30 minutes, which sounds boring, but it became a great time for us to talk and spend time together uninterrupted.
5. If you work outside your home, take a walk during your lunch hour or find a place in your building to do a light workout.
6. Dance! Dance around the house with the kids, dance with a video, dance with your husband.
7. Get up 20-30 minutes earlier several days a week and exercise before you start your day. Walk, run, stretch, or do yoga -- anything that gets you moving.
8. Join a fitness center or exercise class. Look for inexpensive options before you join a pricey gym -- in my city a large church offers extremely cheap memberships to its fitness center (for anyone, not just church members), and in my sister's city the local recreation commission operates a low-priced family fitness center.
9. Do active chores -- work in the garden, rake the yard, wash the car. Get the kids involved. Do the same kinds of chores for an elderly relative or neighbor.
10. If you really have difficulty fitting exercise into your schedule, consider buying a treadmill. Yes, it's an investment, but it can yield big dividends. We paid about $600 for our treadmill, and it's just about the best money we ever spent. No matter what the weather or time of day, we can always fit in some exercise.
Fitting exercise into your busy schedule is hard, but it's well worth the effort. Try it for a month. I think you'll find that it pays you back many times over, and in ways you never expected.
Photo credit -- Ivanko80 -- Fotolia