How To Find Time To Work Out: 10 Opportunities You’re Probably Missing

If there’s one thing most people can agree on these days, it’s that our lives are busy. It can be hard to find time to get to everything you want to do in a day, one of which is exercise.

Many people have every intention of exercising every day, but they struggle to find time to fit in a workout.

There are only so many hours in a day, and especially if you have to walk or drive to the gym or squeeze in a shower afterward, it can be really hard to find time to work out.

If you are trying to see how to make time for exercise and finagle your schedule, keep reading for some ideas on how to find time to work out; there might be some opportunities to exercise that you’re missing.

In this guide, we will cover: 

  • How to Find Time to Work Out
  • 10 Ideas for How to Work Out When You Have No Time

Let’s get started!

A person working out at home.

How to Find Time to Work Out

Unless you’re able to jet between time zones, there’s no way to actually get more time in the day: a day is 24 hours whether you’re a high-performing business tycoon, an entrepreneur, a stay-at-home parent, or the leader of a nation.

We all have 24 hours per day, and though we don’t (yet?) have the means or power to add to this length, we do mostly have the ability to determine how we partition our time.

Finding time to work out often comes down to creativity and sacrifices to some degree.

In other words, if you’re looking into how to find time to exercise, there’s a good chance there’s not already some sort of glaringly obvious open slot in your schedule you’re not using that you can instead use for a long, traditional workout.

Otherwise, you’d already be doing that.

Rather, you probably have a pretty packed schedule, so you’ll either need to cut back on the time for something else (such as sleep, TV time, or primping in the morning) or take a more open-minded and creative approach to exercise.

In terms of the latter, many people assume that in order for a workout to be “worth it” or “count,” it has to be 45-60 minutes or so and be a focused gym session or at least just the only thing you’re doing at that time.

However, neither of these is true: there’s evidence to suggest that short workouts can also be effective, especially if the alternative is no exercise at all, and you can absolutely multitask during exercise if that’s your only way to get it in.

A person who learned how to find time to work out, and is working out at home.

You can also absolutely make your exercise time double as your time for something else. 

For example, if you have to commute to work in traffic, you can swap out sitting in the car or riding the city bus and start biking or running to work.

Now you are having an active commute, so you’re fitting in a workout without necessarily increasing the commute time all that much. 

It will certainly be less of a time commitment than keeping your driving commute and finding time for a distinct workout.

In terms of feeling like you need to exercise at least 30-60 minutes in a workout in order for it to do anything, if the goal is improving your health and burning calories, this is simply not true.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should strive to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week, which can be achieved and surpassed with an intense 20-minute workout three days per week. 

Plus, research demonstrates that breaking up your exercise minutes into mini workouts can be an equally effective approach. 

For example, a cross-sectional study of 6,321 adults found that short bouts of exercise throughout the day, particularly if intense and accumulating to 30 minutes, were just as effective as continuous workouts at improving markers of health, including the risk of metabolic syndrome, reducing waist circumference and body fat measurements, and increasing HD (“good”) cholesterol. 

A large review of 19 studies investigating the duration of exercise versus accumulated short bouts found that there were no differences in any cardiorespiratory fitness or blood pressure outcomes between the two scheduling structures. 

In fact, multiple bouts of exercise per day led to greater decreases in body fat and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol compared to one continuous bout of moderate-intensity exercise per day so long as the multiple bouts accumulated to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

Ready? Let’s take a look at how to find time to work out.

Two people exercising while following a video.

10 Ideas for How to Work Out When You Have No Time

#1: Commercial Break Tabatas

Tabata is a specific high-intensity interval training (HIIT) format that includes eight rounds of 20 seconds of nearly maximal-intensity work followed by just 10 seconds of rest, making the entire Tabata workout just 4 minutes long. 

Who can’t find 4 minutes in the day to exercise?

Commercial breaks during TV shows are perfect for body weight Tabatas.

You can do burpees, jump squats, jumping jacks, running in place, mountain climbers, jumping rope, push-ups, or any form of exercise that gets your heart pounding. 

In just four minutes, you’ll reap tons of health benefits, such as improving your VO2 max, boosting your metabolism and burning calories efficiently, increasing fat oxidation, and increasing muscular strength, power, and endurance.

A person running on a treadmill at home.

#2: Cardio During TV Time

Many people aren’t all that aware of how much time they actually spend watching TV or vegging out with their significant other or family in the evening.

While you don’t have to get rid of family time or TV time altogether, unless you’re sitting around on the floor playing board games, you should be able to use that time to also be moving your body.

Admittedly, it can be a bit of an initial investment, but buying home exercise equipment like a treadmill, indoor cycle, or rowing machine is a great way to work out when you are busy.

You can put the exercise machine in your living room or wherever you convene and watch TV. 

That way, you can still be with your family, but you can multitask and exercise at the same time.

If you don’t have the money or space for a cardio machine, you can buy a jump rope for a few dollars or do bodyweight exercises like jumping jacks, mountain climbers, high knees sprinting in place, burpees, squats, jump squats, and push-ups.

If strength training is more appealing to you, you can purchase a set of resistance bands or adjustable dumbbells and swap your couch time for strength training.

A person biking to work.

#3: Run or Bike to Work

Hands-down, one of the best ways to find time to exercise is to make an active commute to work instead of taking a vehicle.

You can run, bike, walk, rollerblade, ride an Elliptigo, or even skateboard.

Any type of physical activity you can use to get yourself from point A to point B will be a huge step up in terms of your health compared to driving or riding public transportation.

Riding your bike will be the fastest option and probably the only viable choice for long commutes, but if you work less than 10 miles away from where you live, the other options might work.

Alternatively, you can drive or take transportation partway, find a safe place to leave your car, and then run or walk the rest of the way.

For the commute home, you’d follow this same split in reverse.

As you get fitter and more comfortable with your active commute, you can start driving less and running or walking a bigger chunk of the way.

Depending on the distance and route you can take from your home to your place of employment, you might be pleasantly surprised at how little the difference in time will be between driving and biking to work. 

A person in a suit, biking to work.

Most people have several logistical concerns about biking or running to work: arriving at work all sweaty and gross without a place to shower and carrying their belongings.

However, with a little planning and open-mindedness, these obstacles can typically be circumvented.

In terms of showering, there are a few options. 

You can see if there is a gym located near your office or place of employment that you can use to shower. You might have to purchase a membership, but it could be worth it if you have the means.

Alternatively, you can take a sink shower at your job site. Leave body wash, shampoo, deodorant, and a compact, absorbable towel at your office.

You can also use dry shampoo and body wipes in a pinch. When you get to work, run the sink, wash up, towel off, and put on fresh clothes.

In terms of having those fresh clothes, as well as your lunch, snacks, and anything else you’ll need for the work day, you can either carry a running pack or cycling backpack to stow your things or drive your clean clothes for the week to work one day a week, so they are already there for you and then run there the other days.

#4: Exercise During Nap Time

If you’re a stay-at-home parent or watch your kiddos in the afternoon, you can use nap time to exercise.

Again, you’ll want to invest in a treadmill, spin bike, or weights so that you have some equipment to use. Otherwise, you can stream home exercise videos from one of the many apps these days.

A person doing sit-ups with their child.

#5: Exercise With Your Kids

There are all sorts of ways to exercise with your kids, depending on their age.

You can bring babies and toddlers in a jogging stroller.

They now make “exercise bikes” for toddlers and preschoolers, so a great way to fit in exercise is to do mommy-and-me or daddy-and-me cycling workouts with your little one.

Set them up on their bike, stream kid-friendly music or movies, and hop on your own indoor cycle. You will be surprised how much your child loves exercising with you.

Plus, you’re modeling healthy habits and establishing the importance of fitness at a young age.

Older kids can do bodyweight workout videos with you or come with you on a walk/jog adventure.

#6: Work Out While You Preen 

You can do squats while you brush your teeth, calf raises while you brush your hair, and cycle on an under-desk cycle while you put on makeup. Every little bit adds up!

A person exercising while working at a stand up desk.

#7: Exercise At Your Desk

Getting a treadmill desk or desk cycle is a great way to get in your steps or workout when you’re busy.

You can also do wall sits during conference calls, desk yoga, or other strength training when you’re at the office.

#8: Use Your Lunch Break

Go for a run or walk during your lunch break rather than eat at your desk. You can then drink a smoothie or eat something quicker afterward if you can’t eat on your shift.

#9: Do Errands By Foot

Like walking, running, or cycling to work, do your errands around town under your own manpower (or womanpower) rather than driving.

A person turning off their alarm clock.

#10: Wake Up Earlier

This one’s a given—getting up earlier will cut into your sleep time but is a good way to magically add time to exercise into your day. Start with just 15 minutes.

Remember, while a longer workout and a really focused exercise session will probably be more effective than a short workout or type of exercise that you perform while also checking something else off your to-do list, letting go of the perfectionist or “all-or-nothing” attitude is usually the ticket for how to find time to work out if you’re busy.

Some exercise is always better than no exercise, and now that you know how to make time for exercise, let’s get started with a few at-home workouts:

Resistance Band Workout

Bodyweight Workout

Park Workout

A person working out at home.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, and contributes to several fitness, health, and running websites and publications. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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