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How to Find Time for Exercise (Even During a Pandemic)

Chuck Lau
May 11, 2022

Sometimes, while you’re watching Netflix on the couch eating dinner after a long day of work, you may not help but notice how well your tummy acts as a table…


Just me, perhaps?


Either way, we all go through times where we feel like we’ve been neglecting our exercise and want to make a change. Unfortunately, it can seem like there’s not enough time or energy left after sleeping 8 hours a day and working for another 8-10.


You’re not alone. This article will give you a structured guide to make time for working out!



When’s The Best Time To Work Out?


Firstly, you don’t necessarily have to be (or become) a morning person to exercise regularly.


Sure, many people prefer morning exercise. Some people claim to feel higher levels of energy throughout the day later after exercising in the morning, and some studies suggest that it’s easier to burn stored fat on an empty stomach.


However, according to Time (pun unintended), although exercising in the morning might have some benefits – the most important thing is that you actually do it.


In other words – as long as you can find time in your day to work out, it doesn’t actually matter when.



Okay, Then How Much Exercise Is Enough?


Being a life-hack enthusiast, I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to be more productive or simply gain more for less.


A while back, I came across a controversial advertisement that claimed you can get your “dream body in just two 15-minute weekly workouts”. After following their program for 12 weeks, I did feel better overall but I did not get my “dream body”.


However, the biggest learnings here were:


  1. I need to eat more nutritiously.
  2. I need to be less sedentary throughout the day, every day.
  3. I need this routine to keep me going.


The last one helped me a lot, along with a Fitbit activity tracker that tells me how many steps I’m taking or calories I’ve burnt in a day.


While there’s been chatter about how an individual should try to walk 10,000 steps a day (equivalent to 5 miles or 2 hours of activity), research has suggested little to no additional benefit after walking 7,500 steps a day.


My advice here is to simply follow the World Health Organization’s recommendations on physical activity, which are:


  1. To get at least 150 minutes of low/moderate intensity physical activity per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity).
  2. Avoid being sedentary as much as possible throughout the day.


Now comes the hard part we’ve all been waiting for – how?



The Excuse Of “I Don’t Have Time”


Meal prep to make time for workout

Meal prep saves you time.


We all know why exercise is beneficial to us.


Multiple studies have suggested that a lack of physical activity may cut short our lifespans, as morbid as that sounds. So, it’s pretty ironic that we often still tell ourselves that we “don’t have time” to exercise on a busy day.


Here are 5 easy hacks to make more time for physical activity:


  1. Set literal reminders
    Build a habit of setting ‘exercise’ reminders and blocking time on your calendar. If you don’t make time for something, you most likely won’t see it through. These reminders will assist with that.
  2. Make life easier for ‘future you’
    Prepare everything in advance, be it your meals or the exercise clothes you need to wear. If you’re able to cook 5 days’ worth of food on a Sunday, that’s definitely a lot less to think about or do during the work week.
  3. Set boundaries to protect your time
    Rebuild your schedule to carve out time to exercise. If you’re a freelancer or employee with flexible working hours, negotiate a certain time frame with your client/employer when you are contactable. Outside those hours, you should be able to do what you need to do, without feeling guilty.
  4. Free up time
    Keep an eye on the activities that suck up the most time, and see if there’s a way to do things faster. E.g. automate your invoices, hire a virtual assistant, or block addictive websites that suck up your time. For couples with full-time jobs and kids, seek external help from childcare, helpers, or the in-laws, to cut yourself a break.
  5. Multitask your workouts
    Make fitness an integral part of your life. If you’re still commuting to work, consider walking or cycling there. Jump rope while you’re watching the TV. Sprint to the elevator and do jumping jacks while waiting for it to arrive.



Other Common Reasons Not To Exercise – Debunked!


However – is “not exercising” really an issue of time?


Despite working from home and having more free time, many people have become much less active after the global pandemic.


A recent study by McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario has identified five major reasons why people are exercising less during the pandemic:


  1. Lack of a place to exercise
  2. Lack of access to exercise equipment
  3. Lack of motivation
  4. Insufficient social support
  5. Anxiety


Let’s look at some of these reasons and see what we can do to counter them.



Reason #1. “I Don’t Have A Place To Exercise”


Not everyone has access to gyms, pools or indoor courts. Maybe there are none close to your home that you can fit into your busy schedule. OR, perhaps you’re still wary about going anywhere where the virus is more likely to spread.


The one thing that remains constant however, is our ability to exercise. So when there’s a will – there’s always a way.


working out at home is a viable option

Working out at home as a new normal.


  • Head out the door
    If you’re lucky to be near a park, go outside. Whether it’s a walk, jog or run – it’s always nice to get some fresh air while collecting those steps.
  • Try home workouts
    If you prefer to stay at home, you can consider Tabata workouts or any form of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), all readily available online and not requiring any equipment. If you live in an apartment building and don’t want to infuriate your downstairs neighbours, try a low intensity ‘no jumping’ workout.
  • Build a home gym
    If you do require equipment, consider building your own home gym. All that money spent on a gym subscription has essentially become your investment capital for space-saving, adjustable weights, pull-up dip stations, etc.



Reason #2. “I Don’t Have Exercise Equipment”


If you can’t, or simply don’t enjoy gyms, let’s see what else can be done.


Barbells and weights

You don’t really need that many weights.


  • Find opportunities for cardio
    For the cardio enthusiasts, jogging and home workouts can work just great. Otherwise, consider taking the stairs if you live in an apartment.
  • Join a class
    There’s a fitness class for anything these days – from ‘Beer Yoga’, to ‘Skateboarding Pilates’. Many are available online and can be done from home.
  • Look for weights
    You might be missing the buffet of barbells and weights at the gym. However, you can easily pick up inexpensive barbells, kettlebells and weights online. If you don’t feel like spending, just look around you. Anything or anyone can be a weight – be it your kid, spouse, or plastic bottles filled with sand.
  • Use bodyweight instead
    Push-ups, crunches, squats and planks are classic, killer exercises anyone can do with zero equipment.


Black Friday Sale 2021 is here!

See our treadmill or elliptical Black Friday deals and set up a home gym for yourself.



Reason #3. “I Can’t Find The Motivation”


Before I started my exercise routine every morning, I was also telling myself that I lacked time to work out but I knew it was just an easy excuse to use after a long day at work. I did have time, but I consciously chose to be a couch potato instead.


write down your workout goals

Visible goals help with motivation.


  • Set goals
    Set your goals, write it down and put it somewhere you can see it everyday. You can get someone to hold you accountable to achieving them.
  • Do stuff you actually enjoy
    If you hate jogging, don’t jog. If you force yourself to do something you hate, you’re just going to find more excuses to avoid it. Try a range of strategies and exercises to see what you enjoy. The more fun you have, the more you’ll forget you’re actually burning calories.


If you need a real pep talk – check out our article on how to stay motivated.



Reason #4 and #5. “I Can’t Do It Alone”


If you’re feeling anxious or unmotivated, getting some form of social support can go a long way.


involve your children in workout

Involve your child in a work out.


  • Team up
    Exercise with your friend, spouse, child – anyone who you feel comfortable with who wants to help you with your goal.
  • Play More
    The good thing about having kids is that they are a handful workout alone – having to chase them around the house, bath / feed / clothe them, and even play with them when they’re restless.
  • Walk your dog
    Take a longer path than your normal neighbourhood route. Explore another part of town, walk to a dog park, or drive out to a spot in nature, or arrange a dog playdate.
  • Make it a game night
    Organize game nights with housemates that involve physical activity, such as the upcoming “Beat Saber” virtual reality game. We’ve written up a whole piece on the best fitness games on Nintendo Switch.



Time Is Made, Not Found


use an activity tracker to build habits

Keep your life on track with an activity tracker.


Most of it boils down to reframing your thinking.


There are plenty of ways you can squeeze some physical activity into a busy work day, if you have the right strategy. Similarly, a lack of motivation should not be mistaken for a “lack of time” as it’s important to identify the real obstacles that stand in your way.


Finally – when you’ve found a method that works for you, the last step is to build it into your routine.


Sheer willpower can only last so long. You need to literally make time to work out and make it non-negotiable. Habits can take between 90 days to 9 months to foster but once they become ingrained – you won’t even realise you’re on auto-pilot. Using a smart watch and/or an activity-tracking app can help you stay on track as you build these healthier habits.


Good luck! If you found this helpful, make sure to check out the rest of our articles on wellbeing – we’ve written all sorts on work-life balance, sleeping better, and more.




Chuck Lau

About The Author

Chuck Lau is the Operations dude for an Australian e-Commerce store by day, and a content writer by night. He currently owns 3 cats and hopes to create a cat sanctuary one day with his life partner.