How to fit in exercise

How hard can it be to get more exercise? Draw up a fitness plan and stick to it. There you go, end of article! But we know it's not that easy in real life. If it was, we’d all be looking like Olympic athletes.

Written by Emerald Works
Published 15 June 2020
How to fit in exercise

Excuses not to exercise

Excuses are the trouble, really – they’re so easy to come up with. Doing what we say we’re going to is much harder. Lack of time is the most obvious reason for a lack of exercise. However, reported that the average American spends over four hours a day on their cell phone. In the U.K., it’s three hours 15 minutes. People, we have the time. [1]

Sitting is the new smoking [2]

If you still need some additional motivation, though, consider this. It's estimated that Americans spend an average of almost 13 hours a day chair-bound, with nearly 86 percent of U.S. workers admitting they sit down all day, every day . All this inactivity is storing up a host of potential health problems. [3] 

The good news is that being more active doesn't mean you have to train like a powerlifter to reap a whole lot of benefits – physical and mental. Most experts agree that 2.5 hours of exercise a week will get serious results; just 30 minutes every working day. [4] We’re not talking Marine Corp boot camp here!

Achieving anything, of course, is not so easy at the moment, thanks to the coronavirus. Yet if you're 'locked down' or subject to a 'shelter-in-place' order, time, suddenly, is one commodity you may well have at your disposal.

And it’s presenting you with an opportunity to look after yourself, to build your resilience and to change and create habits in the midst of lots of other change.

So, whether you're working from home or (back) in the workplace, here are some ideas you can cherry pick to fit more exercise into your life. 


Eight top tips for exercise

  1. Get up earlier! If you do, you’re more likely to stick with your exercise plan. Plus, activity boosts your metabolism for the next few hours, which will burn calories during your working day.
  2. Exercise at lunch. This will also boost your metabolism, relieve stress, and sharpen your focus when you return to work.
  3. Take the stairs. Great for your fitness levels, and almost certainly quicker than waiting for the elevator. Unless, of course, you work or live in a skyscraper!
  4. Park farther away. Walk the last part of your journey. Any journey. As your fitness improves, start parking farther away. Smell the roses on the way.
  5. Consider your commute. If and when you start traveling back to work, can you walk or ride in all the way?
  6. Stand when you can It burns calories. Yep, just standing there is far more beneficial than sitting down.
  7. Get a workout buddy. It’s harder to cancel with someone else counting on you.
  8. Work out at home. Be it paint pots for dumbbells, online Zumba classes (shouldn’t that be Zoomba?!), or YouTube fitness workouts.

Best of all, everything above costs nothing, and in some cases will save you money . Ditch the car, save money, save the planet, improve your health and well-being. Win-win.

Think on your feet – walk and talk

Many organizations use standing desks and/or meetings to get people on their feet. Some are taking the idea further and holding meetings on the move. As a manager, you could be getting more out of your team and doing them a huge health favor by holding walking meetings.

W ith everyone needing to avoid being indoors with other people as much as possible these days, walk and talk is a great work solution. You could do this with a colleague en route to another part of the building. Or, it could be a focused 20-minute stride around the park, while you and two or three colleagues brainstorm or solve a problem, while observing any social distancing rules.

The combination of fresh air, daylight and walking is a great stress reliever. Research by the American Psychological Association shows that walking enhances people's creativity and productivity. [5]

According to neuroscientists, walking increases blood flow to the brain, which helps people to express ideas more fluently.


The way forward

Once you decide to find a way to fit in fitness, the world is waiting to help you make it happen. Bogota, Budapest, Berlin, Mexico City and Vancouver are leading the way by turning road space into bike lanes in the wake of coronavirus. And one of the world’s largest car-free zones is being created in central London (#StreetspaceLDN), as part of the city’s response to COVID-19. 

In Paris, too, cyclists have taken over formerly traffic-clogged main arteries. “Widewalk” is what Twitter is calling these new green superhighways.

And, not surprisingly in these days of social distancing, home tech is booming. Here are some hot trends to consider:
  • Digital on-demand fitness.
  • Virtual trainers (cheaper than in the real world).
  • Rowing machines (according to the English Institute of Sport, it uses 86 percent of your muscles). [6]
  • Tonal: an all-in-one fitness system that attaches to a wall in your home.
  • Kickboxing workouts. All you really need is a punchbag. (Buy the leather bag and fill it yourself with sand from the local hardware store. Much cheaper.)
  • Post-workout meditation.
  • Wearable tech to max out results.
  • General trend toward working out for wellness, not that six-pack.

So there you have it. Exercise may seem like an effort to some of us, particularly right now. But rather than inhibiting us, lockdown and the 'new normal' might just be the right time to look at where, when and how often we do it. And make some simple changes that have a real impact on how we feel.


[1], ‘Are You On Your Phone Too Much?’ (2018). Available at: .html (accessed 27 May 2020).
[2] 'The dangers of sitting: why sitting is the new smoking.' Available at: (accessed 4 June 2020).
[3] American Psychological Association,  ‘Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking’ (2014). Available at: (accessed 27 May 2020).
[4], ‘How much should the average adult exercise every day?’ (2019). Available at: (accessed 4 June 2020).
[5] American Psychological Association,  ‘Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking’ (2014). Available at: (accessed 27 May 2020).
[6] Ergotron, ‘JustStand Survey & Index Report’ (2013). Available at: (accessed 27 May 2020).

About the author

Emerald Works

Emerald Works

At Emerald Works, we’re committed to helping individuals and organizations around the world realize their full potential by using evidence-led learning solutions that work.

We work together to build learning cultures that empower people to bring about real change for real impact.

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