Only about half of U.S. adults are physically active on a regular basis. Meeting physical activity recommendations can be accomplished with as little as 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity each day. This includes exercise such as brisk walking or cycling, as well as other activities like yard work or house cleaning. People who engage in vigorous exercise, such as jogging, aerobic dancing and swimming, can get away with 25 minutes, three days per week.
The most common reason people cite for not participating in physical activity is time. “I don’t have time” is a frequent complaint. For the majority of Americans who are not regularly active, not having time is a poor excuse. The truth is that most people have time but choose to spend it in other ways.
The American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics sheds light on how Americans spend their time. Much of the day is taken up with work and sleep, together accounting for almost 17 hours. Another four hours is spent doing necessities such as cooking, eating and personal and family care. The remainder, almost three hours per day, represents leisure time when people are largely free to choose what they want to do.
So, how do people spend this time? Most of it is spent watching television, on average more than an hour and a half each day. The typical American does spend some time exercising – 11 minutes, far below the recommended minimum of 30 minutes per day. The point is that the average American does have time to exercise; they just spend their leisure time doing other things.
There is some good news here, though. The fact that over an hour and a half each day is spent watching television suggests that there is time that could be allocated to being active. This isn’t to say that people shouldn’t watch any TV at all and should spend all of that time exercising, but some of that time could be used to go for a walk, for example.
If viewing television is important, why not incorporate some activity
into that time by doing some exercise while watching TV? One study showed that stepping in place during TV commercials resulted in nearly 25 minutes of activity per hour and burned about 150 calories, compared to only 80 calories just sitting the entire time.
Are you someone who uses the “I don’t have time” excuse regarding exercise? Here are some suggestions to help you get active.
First, be honest with yourself about how you really spend your time. You might be surprised how much extra time you can find in a day.
Second, you may not have time to do 30 minutes of activity at one time, but you probably could find three 10-minute blocks of time to exercise. Try taking a short walk during a break at work or between activities at home.
Third, make being active a priority for you and your family. The health benefits of regular exercise are unparalleled. By getting your family involved, you can spend time together doing something that will benefit everyone, including the dog.
Brian Parr, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at USC Aiken where he teaches courses in exercise physiology, nutrition and health behavior. He is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and is an ACSM certified clinical exercise specialist; his research focuses on physical activity in weight management and the impact of the environment on activity and diet. Parr lives in Aiken with his wife, Laura, and sons Noah, Owen and Simon.