How to Incorporate Exercise Into a Busy Routine

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: General Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Try these tips for adding movement and stretching to your daily activities

A lot of people I talk to tell me they really don’t have time to exercise. If you feel that's the case for you, here are some simple suggestions for incorporating activity into your day-to-day routine:

  • Take a 20- or 30-minute stroll after dinner.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  • Ride a bicycle to your local store to run errands.
  • Turn household activities, like gardening, into exercise.
  • Play with your children or dog in the yard or a park.
  • Park as far away as possible from the entrance to the grocery store or mall.
  • Every time you have to stop at a stoplight, tighten your abdominal muscles and hold them until the light turns green. Repeat this at every stoplight.
  • While watching TV, talking on the phone, or reading a book, try doing isometric exercises.
  • If you're by yourself, you can do contortions with your face to help firm up the facial muscle and give yourself a face lift. By moving your lips in and out, your cheeks, eyebrows and making hundreds of movements and faces you can tone up the small facial muscles and avoid some of the wrinkles from those loose and weak muscles.
  • Stretching is great exercise and can be done several times a day with little effort. At least once a day, "reach for the sky"—stand as tall and as straight as you possibly can, push your shoulders back as far as they will go, and put every joint in your body through its total range of motion.
  • After getting in bed at night, stretch your body from your ankles and toes to your head and neck. Imagine making yourself a foot longer and feel the warm relaxing stretch.

Pick a couple of these ideas and use them each day. When you see just how much time we waste sitting, standing in lines, waiting for stoplights, etc., you'll see just how easy exercise can be and you can do it in a very short time.

Over the years, all aspects of our physical activity have decreased. Rather than making up for it with three 45-minute exercise sessions a week, we need to consciously increase all forms of physical activity, all the time.

Change Your Routine to Maintain Full Mobility

Along with adding the above activities into your daily routine, I suggest breaking your routine and trying new things to prevent repetitive motion injuries. Over decades of repetition, we can unknowingly mold our body to such an extent that practically any out-of-the-ordinary activity we perform causes us pain or injury.

Think about it:

  • Do you sleep in the same position each night?
  • Do you shave with the same hand?
  • Do you dry the same way each time after bathing?
  • Do you comb your hair with the same hand?
  • Do you open doors with the same hand?
  • Do you sit in the same chair and position at work or home each day?
  • Are you restricted to one or two particular hobbies or forms of exercise?

Your sleeping habits, sitting habits, posture, range of motion, and so forth are repeated for hours every single day for decades. By limiting the variety of our activity and constantly repeating the same movements, we become less and less mobile.

When it comes to regular, everyday activities, switch it up a bit. Change hands doing chores like washing the car or doing the dishes or shaving. Start opening doors with your left hand instead of your right. Unload the dishwasher from the other side. Hold onto the counter and practice standing on one foot and then the other, to help improve your overall balance. To your body, it's like learning a new skill and a challenge to both the nervous system and your coordination. These small, simple changes can make a huge difference.

If you want to live longer and remain independent longer, change your routine constantly. Variety is not just the spice of life; it is the key to life.

More Dr. Williams Advice on Exercise and Overall Health

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