How to make time for exercise when life is busy

We all know the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and plenty of exercise, but finding time to fit it in isn’t always easy.

Work, children, household chores, relationships, social commitments and other general life admin can all combine to make it feel impossible to take time out of your day.

But staying active, in whatever form you enjoy, is crucial for our health and wellbeing and, with a bit of planning, it is possible to fit exercise in to a busy schedule.

We asked the Virtual Runner community for their top tips on sticking to a regular exercise routine even when life gets hectic.

Plan Ahead:

The first step to fitting exercise into a busy life is to plan ahead. Look at your diary and identify the best times to fit in a workout. Schedule them on your calendar or in a fitness app, just like you would any other appointment or meeting.

Claudia Kuster said: “I plan in core times/dates for exercise for the week ahead and treat it like an appointment.”

Putting exercise into your calendar or fitness app in this way signals the importance of exercise and makes you less likely to shelve it when things get busy.

Selina Krozier agreed, “I put it on my calendar for the month, around work, when I can run etc, then it’s there every day for me to see. If it’s in black and white, I’ll stick to it.”

Be Realistic:

When planning your workouts, be realistic about how much time you have and what you can accomplish. Don’t set unachievable goals for yourself, as this can lead to disappointment and make you more likely to just give up altogether.

Debbie Dubberley fits in a quick run in her lunch break when working from home. She said: “I have just enough time during my lunch hour for a run and then a quick shower before getting back to my desk.”

Exercise doesn’t always need to take a long time. Small, regular chunks are much better than delaying it until you’ve got more time and then realising you’ve done nothing.

Make It a Priority:

Prioritising exercise can sometimes feel selfish, but try to think of it as prioritising your wellbeing so that you are able to do a better job of being there for those around you when you are needed.

As the saying goes “you can’t pour from an empty cup” and exercise is one of the best ways to ensure you have enough energy and mental resilience for all of life’s demands.

Everybody’s exercise routines will look different depending on their own schedules, but one of the best ways of prioritising it is to do it first thing in the morning before anything else takes over.

Sam Tubbs said: “I know everyone thinks I’m insane getting up so early! But it does help settle my mind and benefits me throughout the rest of the day.”

Prioritising exercise may mean you need to make some sacrifices or rearrange your schedule – for example waking up earlier like Sam or skipping a social event to hit the gym – but the short-term endorphin hit and the longer-term health rewards should help to make this worthwhile.

Be Flexible:

Life is unpredictable, and sometimes, unexpected events can disrupt your exercise routine. It’s essential to be flexible and adjust your workout schedule when needed. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a workout or have to reschedule. Instead, focus on getting back on track as soon as possible.

Running is a great form of exercise for those who need this kind of flexibility, and our Virtual Runner community said this is one of the reasons they love it so much.

Malin Ingeborg Johansson said: “Running is an excellent way of exercising when one wants to save time since many of us can start and finish on our own doorstep. No wasted time driving to a gym – just get out and run!

“It is also easy to fit running into a busy schedule since you can decide whether to run before or after work, on your lunch break, when the kids have gone to sleep, or maybe to and from work or other activities.”

Find an exercise buddy:

Accountability is a great motivator, so finding someone to work out with can be a great tool in ensuring you don’t let exercise slip.

Arrange regular dates where you will exercise together, whether that be a class or a run, get them in your diaries and make each other stick to it.

Alternatively, search for running/swimming/walking groups in your area and make new friends while you exercise.

And if you can’t get to one of these but would still like to be cheered on by a supportive community, join our Virtual Runner Facebook group, where you can post your achievements and receive support and advice from fellow Virtual Runners.