When I meet new people and they find out that I am a Movement and Wellness Coach, they often confess that they don’t exercise much or eat as healthy as they should.
When I ask them why they don’t exercise or prepare healthy food as much as they’d like, the number one reason given is “I don’t have time”.
The time factor is something I deal with a lot myself. Between a busy work schedule, family commitments, getting a little “me” time, and household duties there is a lot going on in a week. It’s easy to blame time, or a lack thereof, as the culprit in not prepping healthy meals or exercising.
But is it true, that we have no time to be physically active or eat well?
Let’s do some math.
24 hours a day = 168 hours a week
Minus Work time of 40 hours a week
Minus Average Sleep time of 56 per week (8 hours a night) 1
Minus Average Commute time of 5 hours per week (1 hour five days a week) 2
Result: 67 hours available
Wow, 67 hours is a lot of time! Even if you log a 50-hour work week, commute two hours a day, and add in 15-20 hours a week for house cleaning and maintenance, grocery shopping, and shuttling kids to and from activities there are still 32-37 hours remaining.
Being Physically Active Is Less Time Consuming Than You Think
According to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology the guideline for physical activity to achieve health benefits, for an adult aged 18-64, is at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.3 That’s just 2.5 hours a week. Add in the recommended 2 sessions per week of muscle and bone strengthening activity using major muscle groups, and you have about 3.5 hours per week (or 30 minutes a day) of baseline physical activity.
Note that 3.5 hours is a bare minimum. If weight loss or improving sport performance is on your radar then more physical activity will be required to successfully achieve those goals. My professional recommendation is to double the minimum and dedicate 60 minutes a day to physical active. Aiming for seven hours a week is not a big ask considering all of the benefits it will bring to your overall health and quality of life.
Most people think they need to join a gym or attend fitness classes in order to exercise. The truth is that physical activity comes in many forms and doesn’t have to involve a gym or class membership, unless you really want it to.
Here are two simple things you can start doing right now to be more physically active.
- Walk out your front door. Walking is one of the best yet most underrated ways of moving the human body there is. It uses many of your muscles and joints all at the same time, is great weight-bearing activity for bone health, helps maintain body weight, improves energy, stress levels, mood and mental focus, and costs zero money to do. And if you walk to shopping, school, or work it is an environmentally form of transportation to boot!
- Do body weight strengthening sequences like squats, pushups, lunges, bridges, burpees, mountain climbers, and planks, throughout your day in short bouts instead of dedicating one whole block of time. Start with 30 seconds several times a day and every week increase the duration so you build up to 5-10 minutes over time.
Helpful hint: Connect the timing of your strength sequence to a habitual activity you do every day, like answering the call of nature. Every time you visit the washroom, take a few minutes afterward for some body weight movements; do this often enough during the day and you’ll have 30 minutes done before you get home from work.
Take A Bite Out Of Healthy Eating
Preparing healthy food is not rocket science and you don’t have to be a seasoned chef to make healthy and delicious meals. There are a multitude of resources available with ideas and recipes for preparing a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner at home in 30 minutes or less. In only 10.5 hours a week you can eat healthy, fresh, home-made food. If you don’t believe me, Google “healthy meals in 30 minutes or less”; it returns 6,330,000 results so you’ve got options.
If all of those Google options are overwhelming, here are two of my favourite time-saving tips that you can start doing today.
- Once or twice a week wash and chop all of the veggies you will use for the coming days and store them in containers in the fridge. Or you can take advantage of the various pre-chopped fresh and frozen vegetables, salads, and fruit available in the grocery store. Just rinse, cook, and serve.
- On the weekend block off two hours of your total meal prep time to batch cook two or three dinners, store them in the fridge or freezer, and reheat during the week. A large pot of hardy soup or stew can supply two dinners and maybe a lunch, while one or two roasted whole chickens can be cut into pieces for two to four dinners. You can pre-cook sides like rice, quinoa, and veggies, which store well in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Let’s recap those numbers again:
There are 168 hours in a week
Minus the combined time of 116- 136 hours for Work, Sleep, Commute, House Work, Shopping, and Chauffeur
Result: 32-52 hours available
Physical Activity per week = 3.5-7 hours
Weekly Meal Prep for 7 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners = 10.5 hours
Result: 13.5-17.5 hours required to move your body and eat healthy food
Looks like you’ve got some time to go for a walk AND make a yummy dinner tonight. The next time you hear someone say they don’t have time to be active or eat healthy, don’t believe them because we all have time…the math says so.
If you have some favourite time-friendly meal prep or exercise tips, share them in a comment.
1 Statistics Canada, Who gets any sleep these days? Sleep patterns of Canadians, Matt Hurst, 2008, http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2008001/article/10553-eng.htm
2 Statistics Canada, Commuting to Work, National Household Survey (NHS) 2011,
3 Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, 2012,