Make movement a priority in 2024 with these simple tips for managing work demands alongside an exercise routine.
From struggles with motivation to lapses in energy, there are plenty of reasons why maintaining a consistent exercise routine isn’t easy. Sometimes, life just gets in the way.
Work, in particular, can make sticking to a workout schedule particularly difficult. That’s according to Strava’s new Year In Sport report, which analyses the activity data and responses from the app’s 120 million global users.
According to a UK-based version of the report, a massive 73% of Strava athletes in the UK say a lack of time due to work demands is their number one barrier to exercise. That’s equivalent to three in four people missing a gym session or post-work run due to late meetings or ‘urgent’ requests that keep them glued to their computer.
Of course, these stats are hardly surprising – recent data suggests that almost half of all UK workers do unpaid overtime every week. But when you consider the detrimental impact sedentary behaviour (such as sitting at a desk for hours every day) can have on our posture and overall health, it’s worrying to see work getting in the way of people forging healthy habits.
The report also revealed that, for women, a lack of safe spaces to work out in was also a barrier. Women in the UK were particularly affected by this barrier, being a massive 160% more likely to fear for their safety when working out compared to their male counterparts (globally, women were only 9% more likely than men to report this as a barrier to exercise).
How to stop work demands getting in the way of exercise
Finding the time to fit in a workout alongside work can be challenging, especially if you’ve got other responsibilities to attend to outside of your working hours. But if you want to stay active in 2024, here are a few ideas to help you balance work and exercise over the next couple of months.
1. Schedule your workouts as meetings
The key to building any habit – including exercise-related ones – is removing as many barriers as possible that’ll stop you from reaching your goal. So, if your plans to work out during your lunch break are often scuppered by random meetings being slotted into your diary, try adding in your workouts as meetings in your work diary.
Not only will this mean you show up as ‘busy’ on other people’s calendars – making them less likely to pop over random demands when you’re on your break – but planning your workouts in advance will make it easier to set boundaries if someone does try to slot in an extra catch-up at that time.
Strong Women editor Miranda Larbi found this hack to be hugely helpful when she put it to the test last year. “Turning your workouts into meetings may not buy you extra time to do your work,” she wrote, “but knowing that people won’t cut into your break or schedule something immediately after does mean that you can work out in peace and recover by the time you’re dragged into a new call.”
2. Try exercise snacking
This fitness trend is set to become even bigger in 2024, and it’s a great way to fit in workouts when you’re short on time. The idea of exercise snacking is including lots of short bouts of movement into your day as opposed to longer workouts, so it’s more accessible for those who are juggling lots of responsibilities or are unable to block out big chunks of time.
How small you make your exercise snacks is up to you. A study from the University of Texas concluded that even just four-second bursts of exercise have been shown to improve fitness, but taking five to 10 minutes to work through a bodyweight workout or mobility routine is likely to offer more benefits, as you’ll have more time to work your muscles.
3. Talk to your manager
Some jobs require last-minute meetings or anti-social hours, so having to skip a few workouts here and there might be unavoidable. However, speaking to your manager about how they can support you to fit exercise into your routine isn’t going to hurt.
Making them aware of your ambitions will not only allow you to set boundaries where possible but could open up new avenues for them to assist you in reaching your goal.
For example, if your lunch break tends to get filled up with meetings on a Thursday, they might allow you to start and finish half an hour later to fit in a morning run. Or if there are others in the office looking to move more, you might be able to set up an office run club or something similar to make it a more communal activity.