Real-world ways to find exercise time

August 18, 2010

The fact that exercise is good for your health is no secret. But in recent years, a growing body of research shows that your level of physical activity is directly linked to your risk for cancer, especially colon, breast, endometrial, prostate and lung cancers. Exercise helps ward off cancer by keeping weight in check, aiding digestion and altering hormone levels in ways that discourage cancer from developing in your cells. Most of us know exercise is good for us, but where do you find the time for a workout? Try some of these tips to squeeze exercise into your life:

Make time in the morning. Set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier than usual and use the time to ride the stationary bike, take a walk, jog or work out to an exercise DVD.

Schedule it. Mark your workout on your calendar as you would any appointment, such as business meetings or dental cleanings. Sign up for a class or have a standing date with a workout buddy.

Start a lunchtime exercise group. Recruit co-workers to join you for lunchtime treks.

Use your commute. Can you walk or bike to work? Why not park one mile away or get off the bus several stops earlier?

Make family time active. Start a tradition of an after-dinner walk or a Saturday afternoon hike or bike ride.

Walk and talk. Instead of meeting for coffee, drinks or lunch, ask friends you see regularly to take a walk with you––a healthier way to catch up.

Take the less convenient path. You've heard these before, but do you do them? Take the stairs instead of the elevator (or jog up the escalator); in parking lots, park in the spot farthest from the door.

Use commercial breaks. When you watch television, get in the habit of standing up during every commercial and doing some exercise––jog in place, or do a few jumping jacks, calisthenics or stretching exercises.

Turn chores into calorie-burners. Turn on some music and pick up the pace as you do housecleaning, yard work or other chores.

Play with the kids. Whether they're your own or your neighbors', it's hard to find a kid who doesn't love a good game of tag. Walk laps around the field while watching the grandkids' soccer games.

Pace with a pedometer. This inexpensive gadget tracks the number of steps you take while wearing it. Write down your total steps at bedtime and challenge yourself to increase your number each day.

Experts recommend exercising for at least 30 minutes a day. That doesn't sound difficult, but it can be overwhelming when your day is already jam-packed. So if you can't spare the full 30 minutes in one shot, why not break up your routine into three 10-minute bites? Try these suggestions:

Walk the dog. He needs to go, and you both need the exercise. If you're feeling ambitious, pick up the pace for a few minutes and try a light jog.

Speed up your shopping. At the mall, take a brisk walk around the perimeter before going into your favorite stores. At the supermarket, do an extra lap at the end, when your cart is full—and harder to push.

Take a video game break. Many of today's games aren't for couch potatoes: Interactive games keep you moving with workout routines and simulated tennis, bowling and other sports.

Watch a video. Many fitness DVDs offer 10-minute workouts. Do three segments a day and you're done.

Thomas Lane, M.D., is medical director of The Hospital of Central Connecticut's Department of Health Promotion and director of the Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics.