Time Is Of the Exercise Essence

A lack of time is one of the main excuses people give for not exercising, but experts say it's easy to sneak exercise into your life.

Melina Jampolis, an internist who works with overweight patients in the San Francisco area, advises clients to squeeze in activity whenever they can. She tells them to do five minutes of calisthenics, such as sit-ups or push-ups, in the morning, take a 10-minute walk at lunch, pace when talking on the phone and march in place while watching commercials on TV.

She also suggests broadening your definition of exercise beyond the traditional workout. Active volunteer work, for example, like coaching a Little League team, packing boxes at a food bank or cleaning up the neighborhood, will get you moving and use your muscles.

Jampolis, author of The No Time to Lose Diet, says one of her female patients started walking dogs at an animal shelter. The activity, along with a more healthful diet, helped the woman lose 15 pounds.

Many people don't do enough strength training, also called weight training, even though studies show it reduces the risk of many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

Miriam Nelson, an exercise scientist at Tufts University in Boston and one of the authors of Strong Women, Strong Hearts, suggests keeping a set of dumbbells near the TV. While you are watching your favorite show or the news, do a set or two of different exercises, such as biceps curls, triceps extensions, seated overhead presses, forward fly exercises, side leg raises, ankle exercises, lunges and squats. Try to do strength training two to three times a week, she says.

Form is important, and you need to challenge yourself, she says. "Strengthening exercises need to be at an intensity where you feel them. They should be moderately hard to hard to get the most benefit."

When traveling, it is best to do body-weight exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, lunges and squats, she says.

Timothy Church, who supervises exercise studies as director of preventive medicine research at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, is convinced a workout partner helps many people maintain a consistent routine.

"Your buddy doesn't have to be a friend. It doesn't even have to be a human. It can be a dog," he says. "With exercise, it's easy to talk yourself out of doing it and skip it, but it's very difficult to let someone else down."