Fitting Fitness into a Busy Schedule

By Rebecca Cohen, RN, MS, EdD, MPA, HNB/BC
Certified Wellness Coach, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences

A  World Health Organization report from 2007 concluded that physical activity is the single most effective means for individuals to influence their own health and ability to function to maintain a high quality of life. In addition, physical activity can have significant psychological benefits. Regular physical activity can help enhance psychological health and well being, increase self confidence, and improve brain function.

With life moving so fast and our schedules so busy, it can be hard to find the time for yet one more thing—exercise. It isn’t always easy, but it is possible to find time to take care of yourself along with all your other responsibilities.

Making Fitness a Priority:

Health is one of life’s most precious qualities and deciding to stay fit and healthy is our way of protecting that gift. You can become more fit by exercising just 20–30 minutes, three times per week. One question you need to ask yourself: is the gift of health important? Are you ready to give yourself the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, and, if not, why not? If you consider your health important and are ready to give yourself that gift, then finding time for fitness becomes a priority that no longer seems impossible.

Activate Your Daily Routine:

Five minutes of extra movement here and there can add up to a more active lifestyle. To activate your daily routine, try taking the stairs when possible or walk a few flights and then take the elevator. Park your car at the far end of the parking lot and hand-deliver messages at work rather than picking up the phone. With a little creativity, you will find dozens of ways to increase the amount of movement in your daily routine.

Schedule Time for Fitness:

Schedule your fitness time as you would an important meeting. Many professionals have traded the business lunch for an exercise session at the gym. Why not add variety to your work day? Take a brisk walk during your lunch hour or, instead of a coffee break, try a stretch break. Rather than joining friends for happy hour after work, get together for a game of softball, racquetball, or a vigorous hike. Whatever you do, make sure that you schedule your exercise on the calendar along with everything else you need to do and stick to your schedule.

There’s No Time Like the Present:

By setting aside just 20-30 minutes three times per week for vigorous activity and sneaking extra activity into your daily routine, you can become fitter, happier, and more productive.

Although the benefits of physical activity are well established, the proportion of older individuals who participate regularly is disappointingly low. The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (Department of Health and Human Services, 2010) reports that between one-third and one-half of  American adults get no leisure-time physical activity at all. The reason why so many older Americans are sedentary is complex and often based on the following myths and misconceptions:

  • You have to be healthy to exercise:
    This is false—physical activity is one of the most powerful treatments for persons with chronic conditions and diseases.
  • I’m too old to start exercising:
    This, too, is false because exercise is beneficial for individuals of all ages, including persons as old as 90 and 100 years of age.
  • You need special clothing and equipment:
    You do not need anything special to get out and walk and you can use water-filled containers at home for strength training.
  • No pain, No gain:
    Physical activity does not need to be strenuous or exhausting to provide significant health benefits.
  • I’m too busy to exercise:

Do you have 10 minutes, three times per day, to walk around the house or block? Can you park your car farther from the door and walk inside? Can you take the steps instead of the elevator? How about using a hand carried basket for groceries rather than a push cart?

Exercise may not be “your thing,” but if you want a long life that includes independence, health, happiness, lower health care costs, the ability to be independent and take care of yourself, and a brain that is sharp and functioning well, you need exercise. Why not start today?


1 W.H.O.  (2007) A Guide for Population Based Approaches to Increasing Levels of Physical Activity: Implementation of the WHO Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. Retrieved August 15, 2010, from: ISBN 92 4 159517 5 (NLM classification: QT 255)
2 The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, Department of Health and Human Services (2010). Updated Physical Activity Facts. 8/16/2010, Retrieved 8/17/2010 from

Rebecca Cohen, RN, MS, Ed.D., MPA, HNB/BC

Rebecca Cohen is an adjunct professor with Kaplan University’s School of Health Sciences and teaches the course Models for Health and Wellness. She has a background in the fields of complementary and alternative medicine, education, and health care quality improvement and leadership. Dr. Cohen is trained in Quantum Touch, Reiki Level II, and the biofeedback, stress reduction technique of HeartMath.  

Dr. Cohen has worked in acute care and long term care, and served as a consultant to mental health agencies, attorneys, and the National Institute of Health, National Cancer Institute. She also worked as a Long Term Care Surveyor in the Illinois Department of Public Health and was a professor in a school of nursing. Dr. Cohen’s primary focus is preventive health, and she has developed health education programs for special target groups, corporations, elementary schools, and the community.  She has published more than 30 articles and chapters in nursing text books, and currently works as the editor of the American Holistic Nurses Association newsletter and owns a private wellness coaching practice.

Kaplan Higher Education Corporation is a division of Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company.

another brian hill design