According to the CDC, only 53.3% of Americans get the recommended amount of aerobic physical activity. Why doesn’t the other 46.7% workout “even a little?" The answer is, overwhelmingly, not having enough time. While we can’t add more hours to the day we can teach you and your team how to fit exercise into a busy schedule so that you’re all healthier, more relaxed, and happier. Here are plenty of actionable tips you’ll want to share with your high-stress employees to manage them better and make sure they’re incorporating exercise into daily life even as projects pile up.

Why exercise reduces stress for a better work-life

Even just five minutes of aerobic exercise can provide anti-anxiety benefits — something most people don’t realize when they think about how to fit exercise into a busy schedule. But how does exercise reduce stress? Most of those benefits are a result of increased oxygen to brain tissue and muscles, as well as the release of natural endorphins, which boosts moods, health, and productivity. 

Exercise can also reduce stress by strengthening immunity and relieving both physical and emotional tension. Anecdotal benefits of exercising include improved self-esteem, better sleep, higher metabolism, and more energy throughout the day. 

Exercise is the best way to take care of your mental health while working from home. But fitting exercise into a busy schedule isn’t just a good thing to do. It’s absolutely essential for combating the stress epidemic we’re all currently facing. Finding pockets of time throughout the day and making your health a priority will go a long way toward beating this public health crisis.

Stress comes in many forms. From deadline stress to health related anxiety to changing family dynamics, stress can touch nearly every aspect of our lives before, during, and after work. Chronic stress can lead to illness, difficulty functioning, and confusion when it comes to priorities. 

The good news is that you don’t have to commit to 60 minutes of cardio every day in order to reduce the effects of worry. In fact, some of the best exercises for reducing stress and figuring out how to fit exercise into a busy schedule include simple yoga poses like:

  1. Breath awareness meditation: Sit comfortably, root feet into the floor, lengthen your spine, close your eyes, relax shoulders, relax face, turn awareness inward, focus on your breathing including where it goes and how it feels. Continue to be aware of your breath, let your body naturally inhale and exhale naturally without force for 5 to 10 minutes. 
  2. Warrior two: Stand with your feet wider than your hips, angle your back foot away from your body and your front foot forward, spread arms out towards the front and the back with palms facing flat as you breathe for a few beats.
  3. Corpse pose: Lay on your back with your legs straight out and arms relaxed at your sides, working from your crown to your toes slowly invite each major muscle group to let go as you breathe slowly.

How to fit exercise into a busy schedule

Choose one of the following ideas for how to fit exercise into a busy schedule to do right now or later today. There’s no time like the present! And if you’re wondering how to exercise at work, most of the ideas below can be adapted for offices that don’t have gyms. 

Start small and aim to create a habit by associating this exercise with something you already do on autopilot every day. For example, if you automatically check your email throughout the day, try getting up and doing a light stretch or three jumping jacks after. Small, positive changes compound over time! 

  1. Decide if you want to exercise before or after work then commit to it by planning the rest of your day around it. 
  2. Block out non-negotiable time on your work calendar for exercise. 
  3. Walk outside or even in place for 10 minutes after you eat. 
  4. Pair your morning chai tea with a little tai chi for a gentle start to the day. 
  5. Bike or skate to the store or to run an errand. 
  6. Use a treadmill during work calls. 
  7. Do sit-ups in between episodes of your latest Netflix binge. 
  8. Schedule a 30-minute video call session with a personal trainer. 
  9. Start an exercise competition with your coworkers. 
  10. Find a 30-day push-up, squat, or core strengthening challenge on Pinterest.
  11. Wear ankle and wrist weights around the house. 
  12. Sit on a yoga ball and maintain good posture as you type. 

Another large concern managers should consider is how many hours their employees actually spend on work. You may find that lots of people work overtime and on weekends without additional compensation. To help employees find more hours in the day, consider doing a work hours audit to see who has taken on too much. 

You can also use a project management software like Wrike to view each team member’s assignments and availability across all active projects going on at once. Look for tasks that conflict one another and help redistribute workload however you can so everyone gets a fair shot at making time for exercise (and life). 

How to make an exercise plan around work

Learning how to make an exercise plan around work is straightforward but challenging to keep up long-term. First, take a good hard look at your current habits before work, during breaks, and right after you log or clock out. Replace less desirable routines like scrolling through social media or answering work emails after hours with exercise. Then, decide whether you naturally have more energy first thing in the morning or after work. 

After, review your exercise goals and think about how realistic they are compared to your existing routines and energy levels, then adjust as needed. It’s better to start small and create a plan you can stick to long-term than to go all-out now but fall off later. 

Next, make a point to schedule your exercise routine in your planner or calendar on a specific day and time. Finally, create a contingency plan by listing out everything you can think of that will prevent you from achieving your goal. Write down what you can do to help deal with those challenges before they come up. For example, if you think you might lose motivation in a few weeks, try asking a friend to call you and ask about how your exercise plan is going on a specific date. 

How to commit to working out with a busy work life

The best way to learn how to commit to working out is to decide why you want to achieve this goal, what order the goal comes in your list of priorities, and what you’re willing to sacrifice to achieve it. Also, find out what personally motivates you then use it to your advantage. If you find that you’re motivated by outside opinions, get an accountability or workout buddy. If you prefer material rewards, make a list of what treat you’ll buy yourself when you’ve successfully completed your workout plan for the month. 

How to exercise daily at home

Keep exercise tools like a yoga mat and dumbbells somewhere you can easily access. Tell your family or cohabitants that you’ll be unavailable at a specific time and date since you’ll be exercising in a separate room. Alternatively, you can always invite them to join in on the fun! 

Also, create a playlist of workout videos on YouTube you’re interested in so you always have something to look forward to. Or start a physical hobby like gardening or tennis to help decompress and get your workouts in every week. As you can already tell, learning how to exercise daily at home is all about preparation. Set yourself up ahead of time by setting out your equipment, finding workouts you’re excited to try, and choosing activities that are naturally fun for you. 

Exercises to do at your desk

Do these consistently in between calls or emails without ever leaving your computer. Here are some of the most popular exercises to do at your desk whether you’re typing away, on a call, or taking a break between meetings:

  1. Leg lifts
  2. Fake jump rope
  3. Tricep dips
  4. Arm rotations
  5. Bicep curls
  6. Chair squats
  7. Wrist flexes
  8. Ab twists
  9. High knees
  10. Desk push-ups
  11. Ab clenches
  12. Chest and shoulder openers
  13. Seated marches
  14. Inner thigh squeezes
  15. Toe raises

Best exercises to do without equipment

Calisthenics, or body weight exercises, can be done without equipment in almost any setting or outfit. You can also do light yoga, stretching, and walking or jogging. You can also try going on a long hike, swimming in the ocean or lake nearby, or using water bottles and canned goods as makeshift weights. 

Free exercise apps you should consider

Here’s what they are, why they’re unique, and how you can get the most out of them.

  • AllTrails: AllTrails is a detailed, helpful guide for local hiking trails, parks, and camping spots. Search for walking and hiking options by duration, distance, location, and difficulty level. Discover new outdoor areas of your city or town to explore and workout. View photos and read reviews from actual users to narrow down your choices. 
  • Zombies, Run!: Zombies, Run! has turned your normal walk or jog into an exciting and hilarious survival adventure. Use your headphones to listen to the music and mission, which can range from rescuing survivors and gathering supplies, all while being chased by zombies during an apocalypse. 
  • YouTube: YouTube has great playlists from fitness gurus like Jillian Michaels, Richard Simmons, and Brittne Babe. Search by influencer or exercise and narrow down results by video length.

Build better habits for work and life 

Company-wide tools — like great exercise ideas — that are easy to adopt really help employees balance work and life. So do free exercise apps that make staying healthy affordable and convenient. Plus, team collaboration software ensures employees aren’t going beyond scope for any project, no matter what they have going on. Try Wrike for free with our two-week trial to see how you can streamline workflows, balance responsibilities, and boost productivity for your entire team.