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Finding Time in Your Busy day for Exercise

by Dr. Scott Stoll

It can be difficult to find time for exercise in a busy schedule that typically includes work, children, church activities, community commitments, after-school activities, shopping, and cleaning to name just a few. The current recommendations suggest that 1 hour of exercise 5-6 days per week is optimal and leads to the greatest health benefits. However, the realities of our busy lives today often make it very difficult to attain this standard, and many people simply do nothing because the recommendation seems daunting and impossible to apply.

So how can you begin to find time in your busy schedule to begin exercising? The answer is in redeeming lost time. Each day we all have multiple 2-10 minute blocks of time that can be used to improve your health and body balance.

Very simple ideas like parking at the back of the parking lot and walking. I timed it one day and the walk provided 30-45 seconds of walking from the parking space at the back of the lot compared to an upfront space. Other ideas include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, tightening your abdomen, gluteal, arms and chest muscles for 30 seconds while you are sitting and waiting and, finally, hopping on your right and left legs 20x for each leg—it takes approximately 30 seconds.

Here are a few more examples of redeem-the-time exercises that can be performed anywhere. During the course of the day they can be added in while you are talking on the phone, watching television, while waiting in line or when you are on hold, and even while you brush your teeth. Amazingly, you will begin to notice a difference by adding just these few exercises to your daily routine. Have fun and be creative!

  1. Stand with your feet parallel, hip-width apart, toes forward. Your arms should be at your sides, palms forward. Imagine that you are building your posture from the floor up by stacking your knees, hips, shoulders and head like a strong tower. Use your hands to position each level in proper alignment. Now stand tall, pushing your body upwards. Hold this posture for 2-4 minutes. A mirror may help assess your posture. Take deep breaths in 2-4 counts, hold for a count of 12, then slowly exhale.
  1. Begin with your feet together and then, with the right leg, take one step backward. Toes should face forward. Tighten your buttock and abdominal muscles. Stand tall and then slowly bend the front [left] leg at the knee until you feel a stretch in front of the hip of the back [right] leg. With your arms out to your side, make 20 circles with your arms going forward and then backward. Switch legs and repeat.
  1. Lie on your stomach, propped up on your elbows. Then lift up your stomach until all of your weight is supported by your toes and elbows. Let your shoulder blades collapse together. Your body should be as flat as a table. Begin by holding for 30 seconds and work up to 1 minute (if necessary, begin on your knees and elbows and work up to your toes). Next, lie on your side and prop yourself up on your feet and forearms, hold for 1 minute; then switch to the other side and repeat.
  1. Stand against a wall with your feet facing straight ahead, parallel, about hip-width apart. Walk your feet away from the wall about two feet. Then bend your knees and slide down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Your knees should be over your ankles [above them in a vertical line]. If you feel pain in your knees, raise your body up the wall until the pressure is relieved. Hold this position for 1 minute and build to 2 minutes.

[Dr. Scott Stoll is a board certified specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and currently serves as the medical director for the Back and Neck Center at Coordinated Health, chairman of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and team physician for Lehigh University.]

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