How to Make Time for Exercise

Just because you are busy with a new school year doesn’t mean you have to let your fitness go out the window. There are many ways to build exercise into your busy day, even without hitting the gym.

Brock Armstrong
8-minute read
Episode #352

One barrier to exercising during a busy school day is squeezing in time for a full 45-60 minute workout with a warm-up, cool-down and hopefully a shower. But quick 10-minute workouts are surprisingly effective, and can be injected throughout the day. You can do them in the morning when you wake up, after lunch, between classes, and after dinner. For some awesome 10-minute workouts, check out the Get-Fit Guy episode about the most effective 10-minute workouts you can do practically anywhere.

This one is fun to do with some friends or classmates who are also looking to stay fit. Pick a “fitword of the day”  like "book." Now, whenever anyone in your group says the word book, you all drop and do ten push-ups. The next time that word is used, do nine push-ups, then eight and so on. If you manage to get all the way down to zero, pick a new word and start from scratch.

An easy way to stay mobile and active that we often forget about or overlook is just simply standing and walking.

An easy way to stay mobile and active that we often forget about or overlook is just simply standing and walking. Walk or stand whenever you can. Never sit on the bleachers during a football game. If it is not going to get you in trouble, stand in the back of the room during a lecture. Stand on the bus. Walk while you discuss your homework with classmates. If you have a meeting with a professor, suggest that you walk around campus while you chat. Get creative! According to the Mayo Clinic regular brisk walking can help you:

  • Maintain a healthy weight,
  • Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes,
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles,
  • Improve your mood,
  • Improve your balance and coordination.

The faster, farther and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits.

Maximize Your Workout

When you are deciding what workout you should do with the fifteen minutes you have between classes, here are four tips to keep in mind that will help you maximize your workout.

Tip# 1: Choose exercises that move as many body parts as possible. Choose things like walking lunges, burpees, push-up variations, jumping jacks, and other exercises that used multiple joints. If you want your body to transform quickly, you should focus on full body exercises that incorporate multi-joint movements.

Tip #2: Choose exercises that move body parts quickly. The act of moving explosively will ensure you burn more calories during the workout and for the hours following the workout. Include moves such as medicine ball slams and throws (you can use your largest text book instead of a medicine ball if you like), do lunge jumps, sprints or if you ride your bike to school (which I highly recommend), fast explosive cycling intervals away from each stop sign.

Tip #3: Choose exercises that you don’t usually do. If you choose exercises your body is unfamiliar with, you’ll burn more calories in less time, because your body won’t be as efficient at those exercises. So if you usually do push-ups, try doing a pull-up, or if you usually choose squats, try lunges instead. Don’t be afraid to mix it up--it will make your body stronger, more mobile, and it will sharpen your mental skills too!

Tip #4: Make it fun for you and your friends. Play Frisbee, soccer, or throw a football around. Ride your bikes around campus. Shoot hoops or hit a tennis ball around. When we have fun while we exercise, we get a similar endorphin boost that people get from long endurance exercise, except that boost is nearly instant, constant, and is often more intense. When we turn workouts into playtime, it stimulates both our brains and our emotions.

If you avoid letting it all go now, while you are young, you will have an easier time when you get to my age of fighting off the “dad body.”

Ok. I think you are probably getting the idea now that you really don’t have an excuse to not exercise. Being a busy student is not a reason to let your fitness slide. And let me tell you, if you avoid letting it all go now, while you are young, you will have an easier time when you get to my age (mid-life crisis territory) of fighting off the “dad body” which I hear is all the rage these days.

Give Me More

To finish off, here are some rapid fire suggestions to draw on when you feel stumped:

  • Find several exercise programs you can do at home (on YouTube or a podcast) and do one of them a couple of times a week.
  • Take regular walks while you are thinking, planning or pontificating.
  • Instead of walking up a flight of stairs, increase your speed and the number of stairs you take. Take two steps at once and you'll target your booty more.
  • Dance! Dance around the house, dance with some music, go to a nightclub or see a live band. Just because you might be in a place that serves alcohol, doesn’t mean it isn’t good for you.
  • Get up 20-30 minutes earlier several days a week and exercise before you start your day. Walk, run, stretch, or do yoga — anything that gets you moving and starts your momentum for the day.
  • Join your school’s fitness center or join a sport team. This is often rolled into your tuition so take advantage of it!
  • Choose an activity that you enjoy. If you hate running, don’t try to force yourself to do it. If you choose something you really like, you will find it easier to make time for it.
  • Even if you live in a tiny dorm room, you have space for some resistance bands and a yoga mat. Find ways to use your furniture to workout. Even a door frame can be used as exercise equipment with a little imagination. You can use some of these tips for working out in a hotel room.
  • Find other ways to get around other than driving or asking a friend or parent for a ride. Check out this post about Adopting a Carless Lifestyle for inspiration.
  • If you really have difficulty fitting exercise into your schedule, consider buying a used treadmill. You can usually find used ones for sale online from well meaning Boomers who are now using them as a clothes racks.
  • Make it a competition with your friends. Use fitness trackers and compare numbers throughout the day. Nothing is more motivating than crushing your friends. Am I right?
  • Don’t aimlessly surf TV channels or the Internet because we all know that’s a surefire way to waste time that you could spend in more active ways. You don’t have to skip TV altogether but before you sit down, set a time limit and stick to it.
  • When you do watch TV, make the most of it. Do some crunches, planks, sun salutations, squats, lunges or pushups while you’re watching. Commercial breaks are great cues to get up and move.
  • And finally - always choose something over nothing. Don’t let the thought “well, I don’t have time for the workout I had planned so I guess I won’t workout today.” Stay flexible and always choose to use whatever time you do have as effectively as possible.

Fitting exercise into your busy student schedule takes effort, planning and forethought but it is well worth the effort. Make a plan, put it on your to-do list, put stickies on your fridge - whatever it takes. I dare you to try it for a month and I know you will find that it pays off, and in ways you never expected.

For more quick workouts, quick tips, and to join the time saving conversation, head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy or twitter.com/getfitguy. Also don't forget to subscribe to the Get-Fit Guy podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play or via RSS.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Brock Armstrong Get-Fit Guy

Brock Armstrong was the host of the Get-Fit Guy podcast between 2017 and 2021. He is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute.