Finding the time to stay fit can be challenging in the best of times. Between work, running a home, and having a family, it takes focus and commitment to find the time to work out. Yet, there’s no denying the rewards of doing so. Being physically fit impacts every area of your life – it lowers your risk of disease, keeps you strong and functional, and even enhances your mental health. So many good things arise from regular physical activity
Unfortunately, many things can happen in life that makes it hard to stay on course with an exercise program – a death in the family, family illness, a challenging new job, romantic breakups, and moving to a new house or a new area. When these challenges enter your life, it’s easy to put your fitness goals aside and take a break from working out with a promise that you’ll “get back to it” as soon as you can.
If there’s a lot going on in your life, you might need a short break, depending upon the degree of challenge you’re facing, but the sooner you can get back to working out the better for your physical and mental health. Exercise is usually one of the first things that takes a back seat when the going gets rough. Yet, it doesn’t have to go that way.
Need some guidance on how to stay on track when life throws you a curve ball? Here are some tips to keep you on track even when you’re ready to throw in the towel.
Stay On Course: Exercise in the Morning
Don’t be too quick to abandon your exercise program. During times of challenge and crisis, it’s comforting to have a routine and a way to escape the madness for a while. If you work out at home, you’re at an advantage because you don’t have to travel anywhere. This means there are fewer obstacles between you and an effective workout.
One of the best times to exercise when you’re pressed for time is first thing in the morning. Getting up a little earlier, even when it’s still dark outside, to fit in a 30-minute workout, means you’re more likely to get it done. Plus, there’s another benefit to exercising in the morning. A study showed that morning workouts may help you sleep better at night. You need rejuvenating sleep when you’re under stress.
Stay On Course: Do Shorter, More Efficient Workouts
Don’t get into the “all or none” mindset, the old “I have to do 45 minutes” way of thinking. Any exercise is better than none at all. You can pack a lot of fitness benefits into a 20-minute workout when you do high-intensity interval training or a circuit workout. Research shows you can even get health benefits from a 10-minute sweat session. The key is to work out at a high intensity. A HIIT workout, a Tabata session, or a circuit workout using weights is time efficient and effective.
You can also do more than one 10-minute session if time allows, one when you wake up and one later in the day. The key is to fit them in around your obligations and schedule. When you know you only have to work out for 10 minutes, it becomes easier to find time to do it.
Stay On Course: Add Yoga to the Mix
If you’re stressed out or grieving over something you have no control over, yoga may be just what you need to relax your mind and body. Don’t abandon high-intensity workouts but balance them with relaxing yoga sessions. Research shows yoga is an effective stress reliever and has a calming effect. Plus, yoga has other benefits such as improving flexibility and balance. If you do power yoga, it’ll help preserve your strength when you have less time to lift weights. Exercise isn’t just about burning calories and getting a firm physique, it’s about improving your physical and mental health as well. You need that when life throws you challenges.
Stay On Course: Realize that Exercise Makes You More Resilient and Better Able to Handle Challenges
Don’t forget – when you have other things to deal with and feel stressed out is when you most need the mental release that exercise provides. Exercise lowers the level of stress hormones, like norepinephrine, adrenaline, and cortisol and alters the levels of brain chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine that affect your mood. Plus, exercise also boosts the release of stress-relieving chemicals called endorphins that also help reduce physical pain. In fact, research shows that exercise can be a coping tool and help you deal with tough times and circumstances that come your way.
Whether you’re dealing with a challenge like a stressful new job or something that hits closer to home, like a death or illness in the family, exercise helps you cope with the mental and physical challenges you might be confronting. Exercise gives you the resiliency you need to get through hard times. Plus, it gives you a sense of control, something you need when things around you are in chaos.
Stay On Course: Mind Your Overall Health
If you have less time to exercise, make sure you’re not letting stress turn you into a nibbler. During challenging times, we sometimes use food as a source of comfort. Any exercise you can do helps alleviate stress and helps you avoid turning eating into a stress-relieving activity.
The Bottom Line
Things happen that can make it harder to stick to your fitness goals, but even if you have to reduce the amount of time you exercise, you need the benefits that exercise offers more than ever. Shorten your workouts, if necessary, but make sure you’re still carving out time for exercise, even if it’s 10 minutes first thing in the morning. Exercise not only enhances your physical health – it’s a mental health booster as well and can help you better cope with tough times.
NBC News. “Morning Exercise May Help Sleep”
Science Alert. “Just 1 minute of intense exercise rivals the benefits of a 45-minute workout”
A Woman’s Health. “10-Minute Workouts, Three Times a Day for Better Health”
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2012; 44(12): 2270-2276.
Mayo Clinic “Yoga: Fight stress and find serenity”
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