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“I don’t have time to exercise”: Myth or reality?

“I don’t have time to exercise” is one of the most common reasons people use to justify not going to the gym or an exercise class. But is being too busy to exercise a genuine problem or just an excuse?


Not having enough time isn’t the real reason these people aren’t working towards their health and fitness goals. They aren’t exercising because it isn’t important enough to them.

The Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, captured this idea perfectly, saying:

“Time is a created thing. To say 'I don't have time' is like saying 'I don't want to.”

We all have the same amount of time in a day as each other and our behaviour is a reflection of what’s important to us.

Essentially, we make time for the things we want to do.

Most of us lead hectic lives and are juggling several important things, like work, looking after our family and seeing friends. And it’s fine to prioritise these things if they’re what’s important to you. But if losing weight or staying fit and healthy is also important, you need to make the time to fit exercise into your life.

I’m not saying you should go to the gym instead of picking your kids up from school or spending time with your partner. But with our busy schedules, many of us forget that we’re important too and put time for ourselves last on our ‘to do’ list.

So … how can you make time for exercise?


1)     Keep a time diary for a week

Keeping a diary of everything you do during the day is a monotonous task but it’s a great way of proving if you’re genuinely too busy to exercise. If you can, keep a log of what you’ve done every 15 minutes. You can even download productivity apps that can track your daily activities for you.

Once you’ve kept your diary for a week, reflect on the results. Look at the things you did that you wouldn’t change, like going to work or looking after an elderly relative. Then look at the times you were spending on less important activities.

Perhaps you spent 10 minutes scrolling through social media or found yourself automatically watching the next episode of a Netflix series. If these things are important to you, that’s fine. But if they’re not, think about if you could have used that time to exercise instead.


2)     Plan ahead

Book your exercise for the week into your diary, like you’d schedule meetings at work or a doctor’s appointment. Block out the time in your calendar and don’t move it unless something that’s more important to you comes up. If you treat that exercise slot like you would an appointment or meeting with somebody else, you’ll be less likely to cancel it.


3)     Start small

Any exercise counts. If you can only make one gym session or fitness class a week, that’s ok. Start small and build up from there once you get used to making time for exercise.

Here are some small ways you could squeeze more exercise into your day:

  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Get off the bus a stop early and walk the rest of the way
  • Go for a walk in your lunch break
  • Do a workout whilst you’re watching TV


Exercise doesn’t need to be your number one priority, but if you want to achieve your health and fitness goals, it should be one of them.


Big rocks, little rocks

If you need more help with prioritising the things that matter to you, check out Stephen R. Covey’s analogy of big rocks (important things you can’t miss) and little rocks (less important things).

The idea is that if you concentrate on the big rocks first, you’ll be more productive than when you let the little things take over your schedule. The video below visually demonstrates his analogy:


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