Too Busy to Be Healthy: Working Out

Yes, you’re busy. You’ve got work, school, kids, hobbies, parents, projects, and maybe a long commute as well. Plus, somewhere in there you’ve got to find time for a significant other, and maybe even date now and then, if you’re lucky. How do you spend an hour on exercise, when you’re so slammed you can’t even take a decent lunch break anymore?

How can you not?

Working out at least three times per week might seem like an extra, like a luxury item you can add in when it’s convenient, someday. But it’s not. If you don’t learn how to make the time to get this done, you risk losing your health and everything you’ve built upon it: your career, your lifestyle, your future, and your happiness. The first step to fitting a workout routine into your schedule is to stop looking at it as an option. It’s not an option. It is a basic building block of life as a human. You’ve got to move your body to keep it alive.

Normalize it.

If you’re going to be consistent with your workout schedule, you’ll need to find ways to incorporate it seamlessly into the other things you absolutely have to do. Anchor it to your day like you would a meal, or sleep, or wake times. Here are a few strategies for hanging your workout times on the pillars of your schedule:

Tie it to your bedtime:

Not a morning person? Then prep for your workout before your head hits the pillow at night. Line up your sneakers by the bed. Wear your workout shorts and top to sleep. If you need a DVD or weights or other equipment for your session, get them lined up and ready to go. Find a slot for your workout prep to belong forever, like right after you brush your teeth at night, or right before you set your alarm clock. Then wake up and hit the ground running.

Tie it to your commute:

You’ve got places to go, so why not use your body to get there? If you live close enough, maybe you can run to work each morning and walk home in the evenings. Or take the train there and jog home. Even if you work far from home, you might find a place to park the car and ride your bike the rest of the way. Other ways to make the most of getting there:

  • Take the stairs, not the elevator
  • Park at the far end of every parking lot you use
  • Walk to your favorite cafe at lunch
  • Get up and go to your coworker’s desk instead of emailing or calling

Tie it to mealtimes:

Even if your meal breaks are brief, they still have to happen each day. That makes them perfect moorings for your workouts. If you can squeeze in just ten minutes of cardio activity around each meal, that adds up to thirty minutes a day. Plenty. It could be ten minutes of Zumba after breakfast, a short run after lunch, a brisk walk after dinner– whatever you enjoy. This doesn’t have to be perfect. If your lunch hour gets sabotaged by meetings, just add a little more effort to your after-dinner jaunt. Throw in some strength training every other day, and you’re well on your way to a long life in a healthy body.

Change your “too busy” thinking.

If you’re not used to working out regularly, it will take time to change your habits. Start with small goals, like 90 minutes of cardio each week. Set consistent times to get it done. Most importantly, listen to the things you say to yourself. All of those “too busy” reasons to put off your workout are old friends. They sound right, and it’s easy to give in to them. Replace them with new thoughts:

  • I’m too busy to get sick.
  • I don’t have time for heart disease.
  • This is the hour (or half hour, or ten minutes) I set aside for my health.
  • My people need me to make this happen.
  • I deserve to feel good in my own skin.
  • This is an investment in my life span.

Then get out there and change your life and body for the long haul.

Battle of the Belly

South Asian men are plagued by a common mortal enemy, known affectionately as “the uncle belly.” This stealthy predator creeps up on you slowly, silently, adding ounce after ounce to your midsection, until one day, without notice, you look in the mirror and see your uncle looking back at you, pot belly and all. It’s true that Desi men tend to carry weight around the middle, making us even more vulnerable to the perils of diabetes and heart disease. But that doesn’t mean we have to surrender without a fight.

Daily activity is the best weapon against the bulge. It can lengthen your life, and improve your health. Even better, daily cardio makes you more attractive to your partner, and gives you the energy you need to enjoy your wife, kids, and the full lifestyle you’ve worked so hard to create.

Do It for Your Health.

A study conducted among California-based South Asians, ages 45-79, revealed an overabundance of type 2 diabetes. Only 34% had normal glucose tolerance, and the rest were either pre-diabetic or diabetic. That comprises a 2 to 4-fold increase in diabetes cases, over other ethnic groups. Tough odds. However, diabetes happens to be a treatable and somewhat preventable disease, with attention to diet and consistent cardio. Right now, while you’re young, is the best time to start building the healthy habits that will carry you through the more dangerous years.

Medical experts in London found that this tendency for insulin resistance among South Asian expats can also lead to a prevalence of early-onset coronary heart disease, at a rate of 17% of Desi men, aged 40-69 years. The same study found an early heart disease occurrence of only 12% among European men in the same age group. Yes, it’s unfair that our biology seems intent on killing us. And it’s all the more reason to fight back hard and fast.

Do It for the Girls.

Nobody wants to be that middle-aged Desi guy. You know the one… skinny legs and arms, flappy sides, flabby belly. More importantly, nobody wants to date that guy. If you are still a few years away from settling down, you have more incentive than anyone to start your healthy lifestyle now. Short term fad diets and bursts of boot camp cardio are good for the short term, but they don’t produce the steady discipline and lifelong benefits of a sustainable, conscientious lifestyle. Women want a man who can keep it together long-term, not just long enough to get through the honeymoon.

If you’re already happily married, consider the new healthy you a gift to your bride. Not only does she get her sexy groom back after all those years, she also gets to keep her companion around for the golden decades after the kids leave home. Make goals and plans to travel, play with your grandchildren, and enjoy your nest egg. Then make the necessary changes to your daily routine to get there in one, attractive piece.

Do It for Your Happiness.

Psychologists increasingly use exercise to help clients overcome anxiety and depression. A long walk can alleviate worry, help you think clearly, and cause feelings of anger and aggression to dissipate. We’ve all run into that grumpy uncle as kids– the one with the perpetually short fuse, who dished out a big helping of vitriol at the slightest provocation. You don’t have to grow up to be that guy. Eating well and moving your body each day can help you guard against that fate, so you can be the man who encourages those he loves, instead of tearing them down.

Do It Today.

Try these little steps, to get started:

  1. See your doctor. Get the facts on your body mass index, glucose tolerance, and heart disease risks. Then let your physician help you plan a healthy routine.
  2. Enlist help. You may need to find the right trainer, or a dietician to start you on the right path. Or you may need the moral support of a buddy. A private, on-line network like can be a great source of support, and a place to meet experts who can help.
  3. Drink at least 64 ounces of water each day. This step, all by itself, can reduce your appetite and cravings, and can help your organs to function at their best.
  4. Incorporate 20 minutes of cardio each day. Experts recommend at least 90 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, and at only 20 minutes a day, you get a total of 140 per week. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Simply walking around your neighborhood is a perfect way to start.
  5. Save sweets for celebrations. Sugar is the number one enemy of anyone prone to diabetes. But cutting something out of your life entirely can lead to relapses and frustration. If you limit your sugar intake to special occasions, and savor company more than food, desserts can occupy a proper place in your diet, without compromising your health.