Busy bodies

Longer hours in the office, increased travel time and juggling the demands of a family can all put a squeeze on the hours in your day and thwart your good intentions to pull on the running shoes or take the bike out for a spin.

But the good news is that you don’t have to set aside a large chunk of time to keep active – there are plenty of ways to incorporate exercise into your schedule in a more time-friendly and informal way.

Making time

To maintain physical health, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends “moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, three days a week”, plus “eight to 10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week”.

The Australian Government guidelines for adults are very similar, recommending “at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days”.

For those who are unable to exercise for 30 minutes at a time, research has shown that this activity can be spread throughout the day, in 10- to 15-minute bouts.

Exercise physiologist Sebastian Buccheri, who is the National Director – Exercise Physiology for Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA), says "anything is good – your body doesn’t differentiate between formal and informal exercise”.

Convenience is key

“Exercise needs to be convenient,” says Martha Lourey-Bird, exercise scientist and lecturer at the University of New South Wales. “You might need to work it in with family commitments, so it might be putting the kids in a crèche and doing a gym workout, or taking the kids, if they are younger, and going to a mums and bubs yoga class.”

Lourey-Bird recommends making opportunities to exercise around your children’s schedules, such as going for a walk while they play their sports games – even if it is just around the football ground or netball courts. “You are your children’s best role model,” she affirms.

It’s also important to include activities that will add some incidental, rather than planned, exercise into your day. Buccheri suggests taking the stairs instead of the lift or even walking to a colleague’s desk or office, rather than emailing or phoning them.

“Why not walk to get your lunch from a café further away, not the closest one, or go to the bathroom on a different level,” adds Lourey-Bird. “And remember to keep a glass of water on your desk … and get up to refill it regularly.”

Got 10–20 minutes?

Buccheri suggests taking a brisk walk at a convenient time in your day. If you have a dog, try to walk it twice a day.

Got 30 minutes at home?

Buccheri recommends putting on your favourite music and then expending your energy on some housework.

Got a little longer?

Lourey-Bird, says: “If you’re in an office, you might do some planned exercise at lunchtime, such as going to a nearby gym to do an express circuit. Or you might fit in some exercise before work or on your way home from the office.” Try something new, like yoga or tai chi.

Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.