10 Tips on How to Stay Active When You Don’t Have the Time to Go to the Gym

10 Tips on How to Stay Active When You Don’t Have the Time to Go to the Gym

There’s no doubt that staying active is very important. But how do you do that when your daily schedule is overflowing with errands and obligations? There are days when you simply don’t have the time to go to the gym. However, that doesn’t mean you have to spend all day long being sedentary. After all, every little bit of exercise counts. That’s why today we’ll introduce a couple of tips on how to stay active even during the more hectic of days.

1. Wake up earlier

This first tip certainly won’t sound all that great to those of us who like to sleep in. However, waking up 20 minutes earlier is the ultimate life hack that will leave you enough space for at least a short workout. If you need a little more time to get the wheels spinning in the morning, you can just start with a breakfast and then do some stretching or have a  light morning yoga session, that will prepare you for the day ahead in a very pleasant way. If, on the other hand, you’re the kind of person who can immediately kick into gear upon getting up, the extra time you get in the morning will allow you to have a quick HIIT session, that will reliably get the blood flowing and pump your body up for the challenges of your day. One great choice is doing your HIIT with a skipping rope, alternating between a few different kinds of skipping styles.

Our tip: If your home doesn’t provide you with enough space to use an actual skipping rope, try making use of a modern cordless skipping rope, which uses weighted balls instead of a cord to simulate the sensation of using a regular skipping rope.

Even though working out early in the morning may seem particularly challenging at first, it’s only a matter of time before your body gets used to the new regime. Aside from the rush of energy, you can also expect to improve your immunity, self-discipline and  sleep quality. [1–2]  

Wake up earlier to do some exercise

2. Limit your use of car and public transportation for commuting

Whenever the conversation turns to exercise, most of us imagine lifting iron at the gym or breaking of personal records at squats. However, the roster of available activities is a whole lot wider than that. If the schedule of a busy day just doesn’t leave you with the two hours that you need to go to your local gym for a good quality workout, it doesn’t mean you can’t do any exercise at all. How about switching your car or public bus for another mode of transportation?

How to get more natural exercise into your day?

  • One great choice you can make is to ride a bike or a skateboard, both of which will easily get you from point A to point B even at a larger distance. It makes for a great way to arrive to the office or at a meeting.
  • If the distance you need to cover isn’t all that great, why not walk a few kilometers, or simply get off the bus one stop ahead, making the final stretch on foot.
  • Another obvious choice to make here is to substitute elevators and escalators for a good old fashioned staircase. You’ll reap the rewards in the form of stronger and more toned glutes, as well as a healthier cardiovascular system.

Finally, you can be sure that this choice will also positively reflect on your mental well-being. Walking or riding a bike will clear your head and help you be more productive at work. [3–7]

3. Make your time watching TV count

Is there a series you’ve been looking forward to watch in the evening after working all day? That’s definitely okay, and there’s no reason to deny yourself that pleasure. But why not kill two birds with one stone and do some exercise while watching TV?

Home cardio machines such as a rowing machine, a stationary bike or a stepper are the perfect solution here. If you don’t have access to any of these, no problem. Simply grab an exercise mat and have a light workout focusing on your core or back.

Use the time spent watching TV effectively

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4. Incorporate an element of exercise into your regular daily activities

Are you too short on time to do sports because you need to take care of chores such as cleaning or food boxing for the days ahead? Let’s combine these activities and come up with creative ways to turn them into a sort of home workout.

  • While your rice is being cooked, you’ve got about 15 minutes to do a few series of squats, push-ups or pull-ups. To aid you with that, you can make use of home workout equipment and accessories.
  • You can even exercise while emptying out your dishwasher. If instead of bending over to pick up the dishes you do so with a squat, your thighs will be burning by the time you’ve put the whole load away.
  • And remember, an intense vacuuming, floor mopping or bath tub scrubbing also counts as a lighter form of exercise. If you put some extra elbow grease into it, you’ll be pleased with the results: not only will your home be all spick and span afterwards, you’ll also burn a solid amount of calories while doing it. [8] 

How many calories do you burn in a single hour of performing chores?

Activity / ChoreEnergy output for an average 65 kg woman per hourEnergy output for an average 80 kg man per hour
Vacuuming or mopping of the floor215 kcal264 kcal
Moving boxes260 kcal320 kcal
Car repair215 kcal264 kcal
Chopping wood410 kcal504 kcal
Gardening280 kcal344 kcal
Washing windows208 kcal256 kcal
Washing and putting away dishes while standing163 kcal100 kcal
Cooking195 kcal240 kcal

As you can see, house chores definitely do count when it comes to overall energy output. And aside from burning extra calories, other members of your household are sure to appreciate your increased involvement too.[8]

5. Go with more intensity

We often spend an entire hour or more at the gym, but let’s be real – how much of that time goes into actually working out, and how much is spent standing around, chatting with your gym buddy or the desk service? If you cut down on these breaks and ramp up the intensity of your workouts, you can get a whole lot more done in a much shorter period of time.

Of course, nobody’s expecting you to bench press for ten consecutive minutes without a break. But there are certain short interval workout models such as tabata, that are basically built up on the principle of alternating high intensity exercise with short intervals of rest. This way, you’ll crank up your metabolism, and once at full speed, you’ll be burning considerably more calories as you work out. The time you’d otherwise spend packing up your gym bag and commuting to your local fitness center can be then invested into taking care of your professional obligations

6. Don’t be afraid to multitask

In this case, the idea is to combine two activities to save time, increasing your overall productivity. One option is to include exercise into a less strenuous activity. For example, if you’re expecting to have a work call that doesn’t require you to be at the desk taking notes, you can use this time to bring your phone outside and take a walk. This way you’re exercising on the job, and possibly even improving your focus, since taking a walk in fresh air helps your brain get more oxygen.

You can also combine two activities that include no exercise at all to make time for it further down the line. For example, if you spend 30 minutes in a bath tub scrolling through social media and then move onto your couch to take care of some work related emails on your smartphone, why not accomplish two things at the same time. If you’re already bringing your phone to your bath tub, make good use of it. Take care of work while in the tub, and enjoy the extra half an hour you’ve just added to your day. Same thing can be done while commuting in public transport. Instead of staring out of the window, make use of the time and focus on taking care of your obligations. 

Don't be scared of multitasking

7. Spend the quality time with your family in an active manner

Family reunion in the afternoon? Great. How about instead of sitting around a coffee table, you enjoy your time together in an active way? At the very least, you shouldn’t have trouble talking all of your family members into taking a walk with you. And if your family isn’t a stranger to exercise, try heading out to a badminton court or a rock climbing gym. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable doing sports with your loved ones is, and what’s more, you’re sure to create new memories. With a bit of luck, you’ll even create a new family tradition, a regular afternoon plan to contribute to the strength of your ties.

Having small children is no hindrance either. An afternoon spent at your neighbourhood’s playground doesn’t have to mean sitting around on a park bench, waiting for the kids to be done with their fun and games. Take part. If you look hard enough, you’re sure to find some part of the playground set that will remind you of bars installed at workout playgrounds for adults. Make good use of it. If you need some inspiration, check out the exercises introduced in our article “How to Start Exercising at a Street Workout Park?”. Both moms and dads are sure to find something that works for them. Finally, there are always family fitness classes for parents with children, where a certified instructor teaches you how to use the bodyweight of your offspring for an effective workout without endangering them and even making it a whole lot of fun for them too.

Find ways to spend family time actively

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8. Be physically active in the office

Even if your work has you cooped up in the office all day, you don’t have to spend it sitting the entire time. Take short breaks in between individual tasks, stretch out a bit, or do a couple of squats. You’ll get your blood circulation going , and have easier time thinking and focusing afterwards. You can also take yourself out for a little walk – just volunteer to bring your coworkers some coffee.

When working the entire day sitting at a computer, it’s pretty good to change your body position every now and then. Try spending a portion of your office hours standing up. This simple step can help you increase your energy output, and what’s more, your back is bound to appreciate it too, as standing up engages the back muscles and is likely to help you away from back pains. [8–10]  

9. Get some exercise during weekends too

Many people whose work week largely includes sedentary office hours often look forward to the weekend so that they can take their well-deserved rest enjoying their comfy couch at home. Needless to say, from the perspective of getting your exercise in, this is not optimal. Active weekends are a great way to at least partially compensate for a sedentary job. One great choice is hiking. Not only will you discover beautiful new places, the intense engagement of the entire body brings about maximum health benefits. 

You’ll discover that a good hike will leave you feeling much more mentally rested than a weekend spent lying around on a couch. And with that, you’ll be much better predisposed towards confronting the challenges that the upcoming work week brings along.

Exercise on weekends

10. Improve your time management

Naturally, there’s days when you simply won’t have the time to work out, and that’s okay. However, if finding an hour or two for exercise a few times a week poses a continuous challenge for quite some time, it may be a good time to re-evaluate your planning. To begin, you may want to schedule a workout a few times a week. Set up a specific time and place. Put it in your agenda book. If you approach your training as responsibly as you approach your professional obligations, you won’t end up skipping quite so easily.

Re-evaluating the way you spend (and often waste) your time, might help a lot.

  • Maybe you’re in the habit of talking yourself up to head out to the gym for dozens of minutes at a time, and eventually end up having no time to actually do it.
  • Precious hours are lost daily by making endless TO DO lists that never end up being completed anyway.
  • Household chores can be made more time-efficient too. Shopping and cooking isn’t something you have to do every single day. Prepare your meals for three days ahead using food boxes and shop in larger hauls only twice a week.
  • I you have too little time, try delegating tasks that require less qualification to others, creating more time and space for your own activities.

If you make your planning more time-efficient, you’ll definitely manage to find at least some time for a more active lifestyle. You can start by creating an audit of your entire day, so that you know how much time each individual task is going to take. Once you’ve got everything laid out in front of you, you’ll be much more likely to manage your time more effectively, and find a little niche for at least a short workout.

What’s the take home message?

If you want to have a more active lifestyle, you’ll look for ways to make it happen. If you don’t, you’ll look for excuses to not step out of your comfort zone. In such case, the real question in not one of time, but of priorities. The benefits of having an active lifestyle are indubitable. If you want to keep a healthy and functional body, exercise is an essential component of that effort, and finding time to do sports is the key.

Keep in mind, it’s not all just about going to the gym. Every little bit of exercise counts. Incorporate more walking and short workouts into your daily routine. Once you begin feeling all of the benefits of having an active lifestyle, you’ll never feel like going back to being sedentary again.

Do you have any friends who can’t seem to find any time to go to the gym, but really wish to have a more active lifestyle? Share this article with them, and help them bring more exercise into their lives.


[1] Ajay Kumar and Dr. Birendra Jhajharia – Effect of morning exercise on immunity – https://www.journalofsports.com/pdf/2018/vol3issue1/PartAI/3-1-432-841.pdf

[2] Seth A. Creasy et al. – Effect of Morning and Evening Exercise on Energy Balance: A Pilot Study – https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/4/816

[3] James M. Rippe a kol. – Walking for Health and Fitness – https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/371908

[4] Friedenreich, Orenstein – Physical Activity and Cancer Prevention: Etiologic Evidence and Biological Mechanisms – https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/132.11.3456S

[5] Feifei Wang, Szilvia Boros – The effect of daily walking exercise on sleep quality in healthy young adults – https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11332-020-00702-x#Sec2

[6] David C Nieman a kol. – Upper respiratory tract infection is reduced in physically fit and active adults – https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/45/12/987?sid=fe62a8c5-430b-4506-b854-20b62e8a5e9e

[7] Neuroscience News – Green space is good for your mental health: The nearer the better! – https://neurosciencenews.com/green-space-mental-health-14757

[8] Compedium of Physical activities – https://sites.google.com/site/compendiumofphysicalactivities/

[9] Katja Koren et al. – Active workstation allows office workers to work efficiently while sitting and exercising moderately – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0003687015301137

[10] Kathrin Probst et al. – Active office: towards an activity-promoting office workplace design – https://doi.org/10.1145/2212776.2223770

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