How to Stay Fit When You Have a Demanding Work Schedule

Anna Johansson

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The United States is the most overworked developed nation in the entire history of the world.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Research studies reveal that 85.8% of males and 66.5% of females work more than 40 hours per week. In fact, Americans work 137 hours more per year than Japanese workers, 260 hours more than British workers, and an astonishing 499 more hours per year than French workers.

Chances are, your work schedule is demanding. You probably work in excess of 40 hours per week and find it nearly impossible to carve out enough time for even the most basic of personal responsibilities—including fitness. But if you want to stay happy and healthy, you have no choice but to squeeze exercise into your daily routine.

Practical Ways to Make Time for Daily Exercise

Your schedule may seem overwhelming, but that doesn't give you a free pass to disregard physical activity. Here are a few practical ways you can make time for daily exercise (without messing up your other important obligations).

1. Get Plenty of Sleep

Make sure you're getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night. We hear this advice all of the time, but it is rarely taken seriously.

"Being tired raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and this boost has been linked to overeating," Jennifer Cohen writes for Health.com. "Set a bedtime for yourself, and do your absolute best to tuck yourself in right on time. You'll notice an improvement in not only your decision-making, but your patience, workouts, and work quality as well."

2. Get Moving First Thing in the Morning

The early hours of the morning are ideal for getting in a little exercise. Not only are there minimal distractions, but the movement wakes up your brain, reduces inflammation, curbs stress, and enhances focus.

"If you can, take a 30-minute walk, do some yoga at home, or schedule in an early-morning bike ride," says Maria C. Reyes, MD, an internist at Rush University Medical Center. "If that's not possible, do at least seven minutes combining stretches, plank exercises, and jumping rope."

Follow your early morning exercise up with a hot shower and healthy breakfast, and you'll notice a huge change in your daily outlook. Not only will you feel better, but you'll perform better at work.

3. Try High-Intensity Training

When you have limited room in your schedule, you can't afford to waste any time with your exercise. Efficiency is the goal, which means high-intensity interval training is your friend. Make it a point to really push yourself, and you'll be able to accomplish better results in a fraction of the time it takes most people to perform a normal workout.

4. Take the Kids with You

If you have children, the last thing you want to do after a busy day at the office is to go to the gym and spend even more time away from your kids. But who says you have to exercise on your own?

There are plenty of opportunities to involve your kids in your fitness routine. Simple activities like going for family walks, playing soccer in the backyard, or doing bodyweight exercises at the local playground are all good options for busy parents.

Something Is Better Than Nothing

Even with the tips above, it's hard for a lot of people to find an hour a day to dedicate to exercise. That's fine, but don't let this prevent you from exercising altogether. Thirty minutes is better than nothing. Even 15 or 20 minutes is enough to make a difference. Some exercise is better than no exercise—stop making excuses, and carve out time to move your body.

Anna is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. She is also a columnist for Entrepreneur.com, Forbes.com, and more. Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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