There’s a common theme that runs through modern life: we’re all really busy. Here’s how you can find the time to work out.

If your days are packed with wall-to-wall meetings, appointments, deadlines and chores, it can be impossible to find time to exercise – which could be why three in five Australians don’t do the recommended amount of exercise each week.

Lisa Mitchell runs a personal training business, Health Wellness Freedom, on the New South Wales Central Coast. “You don’t need to be working out for hours on end to introduce exercise into your life,” she says. “Start small and find something that you like – motivation and interest are key factors when starting out on an exercise program.”

Mitchell shares five easy tips to incorporate exercise into your routine – even if you’re time-poor.

5 Tips For Introducing Exercise Into Your Routine

1. Get walking

Sometimes the best solutions are simple. Going for a brisk walk is a great way to get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity each day. “Walk to work one or two days a week, or walk to the shops instead of driving,” says Mitchell.

2. Work out at home

Relying on the gym to workout can act as an obstacle to getting the regular exercise you need. You might have small children, or perhaps you’re so busy at work you don’t have an hour to spare to do a class. Working out at home is an excellent option for anyone who finds getting to the gym a struggle. “It saves on time getting to and from the gym, you’re not dependent on the weather, most of the time you need minimal equipment if any at all, and you can go at your own pace – so there are no excuses,” says Mitchell.

3. Hit up HIIT

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. “HIIT is designed to have short to medium bursts of working hard followed by a short rest period,” explains Mitchell. “The beauty of this is that it’s effective in a shorter amount of time. Training anaerobically like this creates lean muscles mass which is fantastic for your metabolism and weight loss. It will also increase endurance.”

One type of HIIT is Tabata, a method developed by Japanese scientist Dr Izumi Tabata in the 1990s. In a Tabata workout, you perform an exercise – push-ups, for example – at high intensity for 20-second intervals, with 10 seconds of rest in between, for four minutes. You can achieve a whole-body workout in 20 minutes doing five four-minute rounds (e.g. push-ups, high knees, mountain climbers, crunches and squats).

“It’s more effective than jogging for an hour,” says Mitchell.

4. Use your lunch break

Eating lunch at our desks is a bad habit that most of us are guilty of during the working week. Leaving the office at lunchtime gives us a break from concentrating on work tasks and reduces the time we spend sitting – good for both our mental and physical health.   

Take 15 minutes during your lunch break to do a series of interval sprints, suggests Mitchell. “It may not seem like a long time, but if you’re doing short, hard bursts for 15 seconds you’ll definitely be feeling it by the end of the 15 minutes – and you don’t need any equipment except for your runners.”

Hill sprints are another great way to get in an explosive and effective workout, says Mitchell, who recommends using the AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) format. “Set 10 to 15 minutes on your phone and see how many times you can sprint up the hill.”

5. Set effective goals

Think carefully about your motivation to exercise and set goals related to how you feel rather than how you look. “There’s less pressure when the numbers on the scales aren’t involved,” says Mitchell.

Listen to your body, she advises. “I choose exercises and workouts that make me happy, and my body responds well to them. I also allow myself to rest when needed and don’t treat exercise as a chore. It’s much more about how it makes me feel internally rather than externally. I know on days when I feel sluggish, if I make time to move my body I always feel better after – never worse.”

Focus on your performance – try to do more hill sprints or reps in your Tabata workout each time. If you’re new to running, sign up to a five or 10-kilometre run or an event like Tough Mudder – the thought of race day will help you stick to your training regime.   

And if you’re easily bored, mix up your routine. “Incorporating different training styles keeps me motivated,” says Mitchell.