Lack of time is a common reason for not exercising. But logging too many hours at the office or having too many balls in the air doesn’t excuse you from taking care of yourself. (Though I guess juggling could count as exercise, right?)

If you’re starved for time try these simple tips to help shape-up:

1. Eat better

Contrary to popular opinion, about 80 percent of being in shape is about what you put in your body. Not about how you move your body. So if fitness isn’t your thing, focus on food instead. You’ll get more bang for your buck anyhow, plus eating is something you have to do no matter how busy you are.

Start by making small upgrades. There’s no need to totally overhaul your eating lifestyle or suddenly swear off anything that can’t be hunted or gathered. When you prepare your meals or eat out, focus on adding more whole foods into your diet, such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, seeds and legumes.

Be mindful of your portions, too. You don’t need to bust out a scale and start weighing your food like Jenny Craig installed a spy-cam in your kitchen. Just consume reasonable quantities and give your body ample time to recognize it’s full before going back for seconds. Or if it works better for you, eat several smaller meals throughout the day. And whatever you do, resist the urge to skip meals because you don’t have time. That won’t help you shape up at all.

2. Change your mindset

A lot of people associate fitness with a sweaty run or grunt-filled weight-lifting session. But anything that gets your heart rate going counts as exercise.

Stop thinking of it as exercise. Instead, think of it as movement and do some sort of physical activity every day. If the thought of the StairMaster or Elliptical Trainer makes you get all pukey, try something different. Better yet, aerobic activity can include things you are already planning on doing, such as mowing the lawn, getting walked by the dog, wrestling your kids or cleaning the house. The ultimate key to staying fit and healthy is to find movement that you enjoy, and then do it consistently. 

Be sure to bring the fun, too! Incorporate movement that’s more recreational and makes you forget you’re working out — like dancing, geocaching with the kids, or playing a game of flag football. Other fun ideas that will make you forget you’re trying to be fit include biking, belly dancing, boxing, roller skating, ice skating, golfing, paddle boarding, rock climbing, snowboarding, surfing, swimming and beating the pants off of your partner in a Wii sports game.

3. Make time work for you

There’s a common misconception that you need to sweat buckets for at least 30 consecutive minutes to get any health benefit. But the truth is, as long as it adds up to half an hour or more of moderate activity a day, that’s what counts.

Chunk your time. If you don’t have a solid block of 30 minutes, try breaking your activity up into 10-minute chunks at different times during the day, such as morning, afternoon and evening.

Kill two birds. The next time you have a meeting, instead of heading to your favorite coffeeshop again, hit the local walking trail or go on a hike for a change of pace. Or try combining exercise with a sedentary activity so you can be more efficient. Hop on the treadmill while catching up on your favorite sitcom or while chatting up your old college bestie.

Keep it convenient. Going to the gym is great for some people. But unless you happen to have a gym at your office, getting there and back eats up precious time that could be used for other activities, and this often becomes an excuse not to exercise at all. Try using “at home” workout equipment like stairs, stationary equipment, a jump rope or a fitness video.

Work out in quick bursts. Interval training allows you to burn more calories in less time and improve your aerobic capacity. Just a couple of 30-minute sessions per week can supercharge your endurance and fitness. Or try a Tabata workout — each one is only 4 minutes, but it’s liable to feel a lot longer!

See, there’s really no excuse. If you know how to use your time wisely you can shape-up no matter how busy you are.

For other wellness tips designed specifically for busy people, start reading my new book for free. It presents a new system for implementing wellness change and shows you how applying basic business strategies can help you get your act together — no matter how time-starved you are.

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