Hey friends! In this episode of HGTV, we’re going to take 6 minutes to talk about what to do when you don’t have time to workout. Today’s conversation was inspired by an article I read from Business Insider where, “A new study shows that Americans actually have plenty of free time to exercise — they’d rather just spend it on their phones.”
So first off, thanks for watching this video with your precious free time, and if you need to stop watching to go exercise, I’m all for it! If you’re sticking around, here are some details: The RAND corporation analyzed data from the American Time Use Survey to see how much time we spend doing things like brushing our teeth, shopping for groceries, and doing chores. They found that the average American has at least 4.5 hours of free time each day, but that no gender or economic group is devoting more than 7% of their free time to exercise or overall physical fitness.
Those statistical sound bites obviously grab our attention, and admittedly doesn’t do much to inspire action. But- and this is a big but – most of us, myself included, probably aren’t aware of how we’re using our leisure time so we genuinely believe that we don’t have time to work out. According to study co-author Dr. Devorah Cohen, a physician research at RAND:
“There is a general perception among the public and even public health professionals that a lack of leisure time is a major reason that Americans do not get enough physical activity. These findings suggest getting Americans to devote at least 20 or 30 minutes each day to physical activity is feasible.“
Based on this research, it seems most people actually have the time to work out, but having the time doesn’t mean that we have the access to the information or equipment that enables us to consistently act in ways that serve our health. When I shared this article on Facebook yesterday, my friend Jess wrote,
“There’s also the reality that folks in my community are exhausted physically and mentally every single day. Access to space to work out isn’t easy, and while obviously some of us find it, it takes an extraordinary amount of effort that this doesn’t account for. Then. You’re tired. You’re beaten down. You know you don’t look or move like all the images you see of fit people, so you’re supposed to spend some minimal amount of free time you have doing something that will seemingly only make you feel worse?
“I know that I’ve had a lot of success drawing people into activity with elements of our culture. I can run a free salsa class at the community center and get 30-40 folks, mostly middle aged/older women, to show up. They’re moving. They’re socializing. It’s music they love and that carries all kinds of positive associations. I’m teaching in Spanish/Spanglish. They know me. Then, I can start slipping in some mobility and light calisthenics.”
Y’all, I am so fired up about this! I’ve really been working through some thoughts about how media and capitalism have birthed what I call the “fitness industrial complex” where privileged people are taught that they have to take fitness classes that absolutely kick their ass or they’re not doing enough, and underserved communities like Jess’ are left to fend for themselves.
It’s honestly one of the reasons why I was inspired to start leading the community hikes at MFF, which is admittedly a privileged community, to help demonstrate that you can be physically active and enjoy yourself without it being inside during a curated boutique fitness experience. The fitness industrial complex and the “go hard or stay home” mentality that it teaches, is part of the problem.
For so many people it’s become the binary, “I can’t make it to a class today, so I can’t exercise/workout today” when the reality is that there has always been a variety of ways in which we can be physically active. We still can hop off the train a stop early, walk or cycle to or from work, walk our dog, play with kids, or go to a free class at the community center like the ones that Jess teaches.
SO, let’s ask again: What if you don’t have time to workout? If we take the data as reliable, it seems like the vast majority of us actually DO have the time to work out, which begs the question, “Why don’t we work out?” If you have a personal answer, I would love to know – either send me a message or leave a comment on this piece.
That’s the answer that I’m seeking, and one that I’ve been working on with my friend Geronimo. We’ve had in-depth conversations about motivation, commitment, and the social dynamics of fitness, and my current answer is that most of us aren’t choosing physical activity because we don’t yet belong to a community in which physical activity is the norm.
I’m currently examining how physical activity can be embedded in the social fabric of a group to the point at which opting OUT of physical activity is a more difficult choice than opting IN.
Before I continue further, let me say this: I started thinking about physical activity as a norm because I don’t know ANY demographic where it’s entirely normal for multiple generations of people to be physically active together. Unfortunately, I’ve had to decontextualize this statement because I can’t point to any one group and say, “Here’s what they’re doing. Let’s learn from them.” If you can think of a group that can inspire us all, please let me know in the comments!
Mark Fisher often says that “Community is built when we talk about the things that matter with people who care.” The social bonds of community can also be built and reinforced by DOING the things that matter with people who care. That means that before focusing on what you’re doing for your workout, first focus on who you’re doing it with. It doesn’t surprise me at all that the data suggests that we choose social media over physical activity when apps like this very one are designed to replicate the neurobiology of in-person social engagement. Social engagement may very well be what our workouts are missing.
Perhaps we might meet up with a friend for an early morning run, or for an after-work dog walk rather than going out for drinks. It means that we’re more likely to meet a friend at the gym than we are to go by ourselves, and we’re less likely to skip that workout if you know someone will ask you where you were. It might mean taking a class with your friends or coaches at a place like MFF. If you struggle with showing up, first prioritize the social aspect so that you can spend your time with people who care.
Let’s face it, showing up for exercise can be really challenging. Modern fitness is so focused on efficiency and getting better that it’s easy to forget about play, socializing, and having fun. I truly believe that when our habits are supported by the foundation of a positive community, it’s that much easier to show up for exercise.
Okay, friends, that’s it for this piece – thank you for joining me!
I’d love to know your thoughts on these questions. Do you struggle to show up to workout? Do you know why? What strategies have you found are the most successful? Leave a comment so you can let this community in on your secrets!
As always, you can watch these words on Instagram below: