Friday, January 11, 2013

Exercise in the New Year (and beyond) 1: no time?

While we are still so early in the new year, during this period of fervor for getting (back?) in shape, I wanted to make a pitch for movement!

Yoga Master the octopus shows strength, style, flexibility, & cleverness

Wild animals earn their living by moving - there's no way to escape a lion or eagle, or catch a rabbit or mouse, or even enough fruit or insects, without being quick, strong, and agile.

image source: PrimePhysique

This was true for our early ancestors too, but for so many of us these days, being back at work means spending long hours sitting at a desk.

Over half of the human residents of this planet have access to food produced by others (serious note: roughly 40% of the world’s population are small farmers, who produce 80% of food in developing countries and often struggle to do so).

We the remaining 60% have the opportunity to do non-agricultural work, which is great for choice but often killer on our activity levels and, subsequently, our health.

The more we sit, the less we move; the less we move, the greater the risk to our health.

In fact, we humans were meant for physical activity!

Nevertheless, behavior is really hard to change (but here are tips to adapt a desk- & car-bound lifestyle (e.g. "Pretend it's 1985" and walk to your co-worker's cubicle to ask him a question). And sheer willpower is rarely enough to get us to keep our resolutions, as Life -- bad weather, sick children, working overtime, relatives visiting (Must.Clean.House!), fear of looking stupid, or even frustration with delayed results --gets in the way.

Yes, workouts can be hard, and excuses and procrastination are EASY.
   Not enough time.
        Not enough money.
           Not enough strength. Or endurance. Or motivation.

All of these may be true -- but they are not good enough excuses not to exercise!

In fact, exercise may help you deal better with a host of potential excuses, like a cold, a hangover, or a work presentation! Read on for some motivating ideas to keep you moving, even when time is short.

No time?

1. This is a tough one, so you might try HIIT-- high-intensity interval training, which provides an intensive workout in 20 minutes.

interval training basics (time & intensity adjustable)
photo source: Why I exercise
  • Choose your activity(ies) - could be biking, spinning, running, swimming, jumping rope, rowing, stair climbing, cardio machine, dancing, or ??? (rapid-fire housework? running after your Jack Russell terrier?)
  • Warm up for at least 5-10 minutes before going all out (and don't forget to cool down afterwards).
  • Alternate higher- and lower-intensity intervals, such as 30 or 60 seconds high, then 30 or 60 seconds low, then repeat 5-10 times. Or try Tabata intervals - repeats of 20 seconds maximum effort, 10 seconds rest (science fans, see here for results of Tabata's study!) for a (really) short, (really) intensive workout. 
  • Run like you stole something!
    photo source:

  • Aim for workouts at a percentage of maximum effort, which would vary from person to person. You might aim for an 80-90% out of a maximum effort of 100% (or lower if you are just starting out).
  • Break out of your comfort zone for the high-intensity portions (i.e. it should hurt!), then you can back off to recover slowly.
  • Bonus: the afterburn of high-intensity workouts helps to burn calories even after the workout!
Learn more about interval training herehere and here. I've learned a lot researching this post!

image source: Exercise for PINK
2. You don’t have to devote hours a day to improve your fitness: one or more 10-min intervals of walking is better than nothing and may get you moving for longer.

A recent Massachusetts General Hospital study found that your body starts showing metabolic changes after 10 minutes of exercise, and its effects last for over an hour.

Your dog needs walking anyway, so take it out for a real spin and you both benefit!

Next excuse:  I have no money!

More excuse-busting articles at:


  1. Thank you for visiting. I enjoyed your blog exercise-in-new-year-and-beyond-1-no.

  2. This was true for our early ancestors too, but for so many of us these days, being back at work means spending long hours sitting at a desk.

    1. Isabella, I sadly have to agree - my job is desk-bound too, so workouts are before or after. Plus I bike to work. It's not all day, as I haven't figured out the idea of a treadmill desk, but it's something. Maybe we need more walking meetings!